Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Tech: Silent Hill - Shattered Memories

If you're looking for a Wii game that leverages almost every single gimmick and gadget Nintendo's stuffed into the system, look no further than "Silent Hill: Shattered Memories":

"Shattered Memories" is a reimagining of the first "Silent Hill" game - you play as Harry Mason, an average Joe who loses his daughter Cheryl (and much of his memory) after a car crash. Harry emerges from the wreck into a snowbound town called Silent Hill, and predictable spookiness ensues. The game is periodically interrupted by your therapist, who runs through a series of psychological questionnaires and tests with you (these actually alter the game world...pretty clever).

To its credit, "Shattered Memories" excises the clunky combat the "Silent Hill" series has long been saddled with. Instead, during the adventure segments of the game, you're free to wander around the near-deserted town and solve its puzzles with no fear of actually dying. There's nothing more annoying than trying to find some key you missed and being chased by respawning monsters at the same time.

That doesn't mean you can't die, though. At certain parts of the game, you're forced into an adrenaline-charged "nightmare sequence." The world turns into an icy hell, you are chased by a horde of creepy baddies that you can't fight, and you generally run for your life.

The Wii-specific elements in "Shattered Memories" are especially cool. The flashlight is controlled by pointing the Wii Remote at the screen. Zooming in on the environment with it often prompts pithy comments from Harry and helps you solve puzzles. The in-game cell phone outputs to the Remote's speaker; the low quality of the controller's speaker actually enhances the static-filled, creepy voicemails you receive. Finally, you can use motion controls to solve puzzles and evade enemies.

Unfortunately, the Wii's limitations affect the experience just as much as the Wii's strengths. Even discounting the underwhelming graphics (which are so simple that "Shattered Memories" was ported to PS2/PSP), the non-HD output really makes reading the in-game text a chore - especially problematic if the text you're looking at is the solution to a puzzle. And if you don't like adventure games (read: occasionally getting stuck until you figure out how to proceed), you might get frustrated by a tough puzzle or a hard-to-navigate maze.

Still, there's a real shortage of mature, story-oriented games on the Wii. "Shattered Memories" provides a lot of great adventuring, with better-than-ordinary replay value (a different psych profile yields some different puzzles and events). It's well worth a try if you like cerebral survival horror.

Rating: 78/100


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