Shattered Memories is the seventh installment in the Silent Hill series and was initially released on the Wii in 2009 but ported to the PSP and PS2 in 2010. We only own the PS2 version of the game so that’s what we played and also the only version we’ll be reviewing. I’m sorry if you’re interested in hearing about the Wii or PSP versions, but there are tons of reviews around online that will answer a lot more of your questions.
I never actually played Shattered Memories until just recently when we played through it in celebration of Silent Hill Month, but after a few hours I noticed that it had a lot of similar elements to the newest release, Downpour. Shattered Memories is not a remake, but a re-imagining of the original Silent Hill with some of the same characters but a completely different plot (albeit similar situations) and play-style. There are also a lot of twists and turns with the plot, so I’ll avoid spoiling anything since it was a pretty big twist and really made us sit and think about the outcome.
Like in the original, you control Harry Mason who displays his top-tier parenting skills by flying down snowy roads in Silent Hill with his young daughter Cheryl until he gets caught in a massive snowstorm. After he wrecks their sweet grocery-go-getter, Harry wakes up, Cheryl is gone and he seems to have completely lost his marbles. He can only recall small parts of his life, which are uncovered and altered depending on choices you make throughout the game.
Shattered Memories periodically seques from the story to an interview with a shrink that will either ask various questions or have you participate in psychological exercises. The game will then use your answers and outcomes to completely change the way certain events play out, how certain people are dressed or even change the color of houses, etc.. It boasts about this “profiling system” with a warning of sorts as you boot up the game, and some of it was really cool as our choices in therapy sessions actually came to life on the screen, but often times it seemed to feel more like a gimmick. For instance, we were asked to color a pre-drawn picture of a family standing in front of their house. We filled the image with bright colors, joking about how hilarious it would be if we really lived in a pink house with a bright yellow car while wearing tacky green and pink shirts.. and then it happened. We had a pretty good laugh about it and it’s something we’ve been joking about ever since.
The flow of Shattered Memories basically goes from a therapy session to an exploration story segment, culminating with a chase sequence where the zone you just explored is encased in ice while you run like hell as you’re chased by demons. It never strays from that flow at all, which might sound a little boring and makes little sense until the end.
During the exploration and story segments, you’re treated to an over-the-shoulder view and armed with only a cellphone and a flashlight – there is absolutely no combat in Shattered Memories at all. This might deter some players from even trying Shattered Memories, but we both thought the idea worked out extremely well. Harry is an aging dad and a coward, not a superhero, so it makes more sense for him to use his brains to run and hide versus swinging a knife at a bunch of skin-people. Your cellphone is an innovative tool used for receiving calls, pictures and text messages from sources both human and paranormal, as well as using its GPS and camera to solve puzzles.
My PS2 is connected with a component cable to a pretty nice TV, so graphically Shattered Memories looked great for a ported Wii title. Character models were rendered well, the town itself looked great and the particle effects for the snow actually made the game feel chilling and cold. Every building from the hospital to the mall was really well put together and the lighting effects from the flashlight really shined (no pun intended, I guess), but the overall exploration left a little bit to be desired. It seemed that so many opportunities to let the player feel lost in giant, dark buildings or the snow-covered city streets were either stopped by dead ends or boarded doors which made Shattered Memories feel a lot more linear than some of the other Silent Hill titles.
Being a Silent Hill game, Shattered Memories offers up lots of puzzles and locked doors, but unlike most of the other offerings, the answer to puzzles can usually be found in the same room highlighted by floating white arrows to show which items you can interact with. Some of the puzzles were well done, such as having to move around small pieces of artwork so that their shadows flood a nearby wall, revealing a number that you need to call on your cellphone. But sadly, a majority of the puzzles require no thought at all – hitting a switch so an electric train set brings around a key or having a locker number etched next to a keypad. With such an emphasis on non-combat storytelling, I wish the puzzles required a bit more interaction or thought, or maybe even having the keys more than a room away. Hell, the “puzzle” that took me the longest was sitting in a car filling with water and completely forgetting I could change seats. My girlfriend and I were sitting there for at least an hour interacting with the heater, opening the glove box over and over again, unlocking and re-locking the door, basically herp-derping under water.. and then, pow. Seat jump. Flashlight acquired. Game on.
After all the exploration, puzzle solving, character interaction and therapy sessions, you always end up in a room that freezes over and all hell breaks loose. Shattered Memories goes from being a game completely based on story telling and puzzle solving to a terrifying game of “run like hell” that plays out exactly like the sessions from Downpour. Rather than a giant red vortex, demons break free from the ice and their sole purpose is to jump you in large groups to force you in to quick-time events. Get hit too many times and you die, but you can hide in lockers and regain your health or use flares to ward them off altogether. The chase sequences are intense and I actually enjoyed them a lot more than the vortex scenes from Downpour.
Before getting to the verdict, one thing we really thought was worth mentioning was the lack of load times. The only time Shattered Memories will present you with a loading screen is in between scenarios, but while you’re exploring or running from a potential skin-demon gang bang there are absolutely no load times at all. The game does hiccup slightly as you open doors, but I’ll take a 1-2 second hiccup over large load times any day.
The Verdict – B
While Shattered Memories was a pretty basic bare-bones game, it provided a storyline that fit the Silent Hill series and is definitely a great entry point to the series for anyone who hasn’t played any of the other games yet. We both really enjoyed the 6-ish hours it took to complete the game and receive the “good” ending, but we both felt it was just too simple. It looked great for a PS2 port of a Wii game and the standard controls ported over extremely well, Akira Yamaoka did a great job as always with the soundtrack and the chase scenes were really intense. Even as basic as it was, we both felt satisfied and agree that it was a fun experience with an engaging storyline, but in the end it was just way too easy.