Silent Hill: Shattered Memories
In Soviet Russia, game profile you!!
Played to completion on default difficulty (Wii)
You know your in for something special when the first thing you read is a warning. A warning that specifically says "this game plays you as much as you play it." A game that promises to analyze every move you make and tailor itself specifally to who you are as a person. The most amazing thing about it though, is that it succeeds.
As a psuedo remake of the original Silent Hill, the game opens with protagonist Harry Mason waking up from a car crash to find his daughter Cheryl missing. Armed with a flashlight, cell phone, and your wits, you'll soon begin to explore the town or Silent Hill. However, before all that you'll be introduced to the your characters pychiatrist. He makes frequent appearances along your journey to test you with various mental excercises ranging from coloring to psuedo rorschach tests. These tests can impact your games in surprising ways that I don't want to spoil. I'll just say that sometime's these tests are more literal then they seem.
Silent Hill fully embraces the wii's unique control scheme and is definitely one of the best games to showcase the Wii's potential. The wiimote acts as your flashlight, which helps to put you in the protagonist's shoes and immerse you in the game. Also unique and immersive is the in game cell phone, which acts a a mulit-tool in the game. Your cell phone houses your save games, GPS, contacts, messages, and camera. Messages are central to the game's narrative and once again uniquely immerse you in the game by playing through the wiimotes speakers which give a distinctly bad cell reception sound. The camera main use is to see ghosts ala Fatal Frame.
The Cell phone is a fantastic tool
Most of the game will be spent investigating the town of Silent Hill trying to find your daughter. Along the way you'll encounter you'll find various ghostly apparitions to photograph and often come accross extremely disturbing voice messages. The games atmoshpere is constantly reinforced by these messages which leave you on edge and often wondering the fate of the people whose messages your now hearing. every once in a while you'll come across another person in Silent Hill. These characters appear and disappear frequently, always leaving you with more questions then answers. This portion of the game is heavily altered based on the games profiling of you. The characters you meet can change appearance dramatically, one example being the cop you meet early on. In my game she dressed seductively and flaunted herself. The next time trough she had completely changed her look to a conservative sherriff look. Not only do the characters change but so do the locations. Billboards and signs change, storefronts can be completely different, and building can be locked and unlocked based on your choices. The differences are so immense that this game can essentially be played through mulitple times with completely different looks and feels every time.
The other big gameplay element of Silent Hill ate the enemy encounter sections. At various points in the game the world will freeze over, indicating that you are now being pursued by the monsters of Silent Hill. Shattered memories has no combat mechanics, your only choice is to run to safety. Here is where the game sort of falls apart for me. Every enemy section is basically a maze that you must navigate to reach a safe room. Enemies will chase you doggedly, jumping on you from all sides in an effort to take you down. Your only defense are the rare flare pickups and your ability to quickly find the exit. Here the wii's controls easily and often become a problem. The heart of it lies in how you shake off enemies by waggling. There are many times you can't avoid enemies jumping you and you have to frantically waggle in the right direction to throw them off. This often leads to the remote losing sync with the sensor bar, leaving you standing still for precious seconds. I've died more than once trying to get the sensor bar to pick up my remote, which is extremely frustrating. For the most part though, these sequences are a sort of hindrance to the main appeal of the game, the plot.
I NEED THAT FLARE NOW!
Silent Hill Shattered Memories is without a doubt my favorite game on the Wii. For the most part the game lives up to it's promise of fully bending itself to your personality. The enemy segments of the game aren't anything special, but luckily they're fairly brief and few and far between. In many ways this game blew me away. It's ability to change itself so completely is something I've never seen before. The ending itself is worth playing through the game for, if just to see how well a game can understand you.
[Next up for reviews are Portal 2 and Alice: Madness Returns. Also I'm still looking for feedback to see if people would enjoy game deal blog entries on a semi frequent basis.]