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SnickerdoodleNinja's Silent Hill Game Review

Silent Hill Silent Hill Screenshot The cover. 'Nuff said. Silent Hill Screenshot Your therapist is scarier than any monsters you'll meet. Silent Hill Screenshot Everyone needs a hug every now and again. Silent Hill Screenshot Hello! I walked straight out of a Disney game. Fear me!

Silent Hill game Review

Story & Playability

Note: This review covers the PS2 version of Silent Hill: Shattered Memories.

On what will most likely become the worst night of his life, writer Harry Mason loses control of his car during a snowstorm in the sleepy town of Silent Hill. Collecting himself, he notices that his seven year old daughter Cheryl is nowhere to be found among the crash site. Now, as the snow continues to fall, Harry must traverse through Silent Hill and his deepest fears with the help of a cop named Cybil, a nurse named Lisa, and a handful of other characters in the hope of finding his little girl.

Fans of the original Silent Hill will probably recognize the story thus far, but it should be noted that the resemblance pretty much ends there. After all, Shattered Memories is not a re-make of the first Silent Hill, but a re-imagining. This time around, the story is not as set in stone in that the player has a tremendous amount of control over the person Harry turns out to be. After certain points in the story the scene temporarily breaks to a therapist’s office, where the player is given various little exercises by Doctor K. that help the game read the player’s personality and construct elements of the story and Harry’s persona around them accordingly. Some of these exercises are simple yes-or-no questions, while others are a bit more complex and require the player to analyze a story or arrange a school schedule based on their tastes. Of course, no matter how simple or complex the tasks, they are consistently probing even if it isn’t always obvious how. In this aspect the story is innovative and enthralling, with plenty of psychology to keep the player engaged as they wonder how their reactions are influencing their surroundings.

Unfortunately, other areas of the story are not so original. Most of the game is spent simply running from place to place looking for Cheryl, and while there are twists that suggest things aren’t as the player thinks, some of the grand unveilings provoke less of a “Wow! How unexpected!” and more of a “Well that’s neat.” Another problem is that the setting just isn’t relevant. The truth is, there is nothing that suggests that Shattered Memories couldn’t happen in any town. If it weren’t for the fact that the words “Silent Hill” are on the cover and are used a couple of times throughout the story, the game could take place in New York City, for all the player knows. This might not be a huge issue were this any other game, but the Silent Hill series seems to pride itself on its titular town and its quirks, yet doesn’t make them relevant to Shattered Memories.

As a whole, Shattered Memories has decent character development that changes based on the player’s reactions to several different parts of the game with highly-detailed psychology to back it up. That said, the story fails to immerse the player in the town itself or astound with creative questions or plot devices, and Harry –regardless of how the player develops his character- just isn’t as endearing as he was in the original Silent Hill. Of course, all this isn’t to say that the story of Shattered Memories is bad-on the contrary, it is stable and quite enjoyable. It’s just that it never seems to excel in anything besides psychology, and it takes more than psychology alone to make things come together as a fantastic game.

Rating: 5

Graphics

When it comes to art and graphics in Shattered Memories, there’s no way to be completely honest without also being incredibly blunt: while it might be difficult to tell just by looking at screenshots, this game is a mess of lazy graphics. Of course, before I continue I should probably mention that since I am reviewing solely the PS2 version, those who decide to play the Wii or PSP versions of the game might find that in graphics their mileage may vary. Anyhow, Shattered Memories is grainy, relatively unstylized, and jagged, even for a PS2 game-which is especially sad when you consider that two other Silent Hill games were released on the PS2 a couple of years before Shattered Memories, yet have considerably higher quality graphics.

Although I’ve been hard on the graphics so far, Shattered Memories does have some good things going for it in its environments, such as being surprisingly detailed at times. With subtle additions like the several phone numbers naturally integrated into the environment for you to call on your in-game cell phone and detailed posters, there is a lot to catch the player’s eye and make them feel as if they are really in a small town. Characters also have detail put into how how they are presented, with changes based on play style. Unfortunately, this isn’t enough to make up for the game’s painfully blurry graphics, but it does help. At least a little bit.

Rating: 3

Sound

Truth be told, the most notable music in Shattered Memories is the lack thereof. More often than not, the simple, melancholy piano tunes-while nice-do far less to contribute to the supposed horror atmosphere than the piercing silences. Though somewhat haunting, the piano scores provoke more fear when they stop, with the player having multiple “Oh snap! There’s no music! What’s about to eat me?!” moments. It should also be noted, however, that those feeling begins to wear off once the player realizes that even if monsters do appear they won’t get eaten. And by the way, the only sound the monsters make is a sort of “Skweeeee!” So be prepared to be scared out of your wits. If you happen to have an irrational fear of bird noises, that is.

Voice acting is done a bit better than the music, but is still barely above average. Harry and several of the other characters have voice actors who get the job done and talk naturally yet just don’t create much sympathy for the situation. The one notable exception is probably Laura Bailey, who manages to go outside of her usual character type and well portray a tough, devil-may-care woman.

All that said, characters and their personalities will change based on Harry’s actions, so the voice actors do have to have a certain level of flexibility in their acting in order to be able to capture the essence of each character’s potential personas. While the voice actors certainly deserve props for this, it is truly a shame that the music in the game lacks the horror game feel for the most part.

Rating: 5

Fun

In order for fans of the original Silent Hill to properly enjoy Shattered Memories, it is vital that they throw off notions of wanting the game to be a remake and instead accept it as a completely different game with some ties. Another important thing to keep in mind-regardless of whether or not you are familiar with the Silent Hill series-is that Shattered Memories just isn’t that scary, despite its label as a horror game. While the Silent Hill series is usually filled with intense, bloody environments, Shattered Memories’ version of a frightening “otherworld” is instead the regular world frozen over in ice. Sadly, this otherworld is actually less frightening than the normal world that Harry spends most of the game in, in which there are shadows darting across rooms and interesting lighting effects to add intensity to dark hallways.

Perhaps the most detrimental elements to Shattered Memories’ scare factor are the monsters and how the player has to deal with them. Those who have played Kingdom Hearts 2 might notice that the monsters look strikingly similar to Nobodies-silver, wispy creatures that lack intimidation. And yes, you read that right. This “horror” game has creatures that are essentially estranged cousins from a Disney video game. Even worse, these monsters don’t try to eat you or anything-they just chase you, then jump on you, and give you something akin to a deathly bear-hug.

As for the actual gameplay, Shattered Memories relies on a “run for your life” battle system rather than its ancestor’s “fight for your life” system, in which the player could pick up steel pipes, guns, katanas-pretty much anything that could be used as a bludgeoning tool or be otherwise deadly. No, Shattered Memories instead relies on the player’s ability to run, run, and run some more whenever monsters are around, while throwing monsters off should they catch you in their bear hug. There is also the ability to throw cabinets down on the ground to disrupt pursuers, used flares to fend off creatures temporarily, or hide in closets and such. Unfortunately, the last option is pretty much useless and you might as well run for your life until you get out of the brief otherworld sections. Besides, even should Harry “die,” he’ll just be sent back to a close checkpoint, eliminating any sense of peril. Before long, the monsters become more of a nuisance than a source of actual fear.

Shattered Memories prides itself on adaptive gameplay, which actually turns out to be a double sword. For monsters, it means that should the player do well, an army of monsters will swarm Harry to make things more challenging, when really the only option is death. In turn, the monsters will be very few in number next time around, making the game a mix of unnaturally hard and easy with no good middle ground. On the other hand, the ways the environments adapt are incredible. Based on the interests the player has Harry pursue (whether in therapy sessions or by staring at certain items in the game), Harry, environments and characters will react accordingly in appearance and behavior. In this sense, the psychology is fascinating and creates a fun game, though not a scary game.

Before I get to the close, it’s important to note that Shattered Memories is rated mature, and for good reasons. Oddly enough, it isn’t for gore or violence really, but for language, sexual themes, and drug and alcohol references. Granted, much of this can be avoided based on how the player handles certain events, but some things are unavoidable and thus it is recommended that younger players use discretion before picking this game up.

Dear Climax, in developing Shattered Memories you have created a game of wonderful, adaptive psychology, complete with a patient analysis at the end to tell us players what we’re really like. Unfortunately, your game lacks suspense, terror, and atmosphere, almost as if after a while you forgot to try to scare us. Truth be told, other than a few moments, your game just isn’t scary. And this is coming from a girl who used to have nightmares from Scooby-Doo. Still, while this game may miss the mark as both a Silent Hill and a horror game, you have made an interesting story with psychology that makes your game worth playing at least once, regardless of whether or not one is a Silent Hill fan.

Rating: 5

Final Verdict

4.67 (moderate)

Reviewed by SnickerdoodleNinja, Aug 16, 2011

Comments

  1. ArtificialRaindrop Aug 16, 2011

    What's kind of sad is that when I listen to the soundtrack I think about how great the music is, and yet they don't implement it well in the game itself. And while I don't believe graphics alone make a game, I think we've reached the point in technology where there is not really a good excuse to have an outright ugly game, unless the ugliness is part of the intended style. Sadly this one just feels sloppy at points, especially considering the number of horror games for the PS2 that look noticeably better.

    Quote: This “horror” game has creatures that are essentially estranged cousins from a Disney video game. Even worse, these monsters don’t try to eat you or anything-they just chase you, then jump on you, and give you something akin to a deathly bear-hug.

    The Snow White ride at Disneyland is actually scarier. I'm not joking, it's freaky! :O They should have had all of the monsters look like the Witch and then I wouldn't be able to sleep at night.

    Very nice review. I think you did a nice job of reviewing it for what it is and not judging it unfairly against the other games.

  2. CyanideBlizzard Retired Moderator Aug 16, 2011

    What a shame.

    I have to admit, I was really excited when they announced it. Akira Yamaoka would be returning for the soundtrack and it would be giving a very interesting twist to the original Silent Hill game. Wow, it really sounds like they missed the step in a big way. I'm extremely disappointed in the soundtrack, because we're talking about the man who's been a part of the SH team in terms of sound since the beginning and to have a game like this not deliver in the same aspects as past titles does make me rather sad, since the soundtracks in Silent Hill have always been an extremely strong point.

    I don't think it needs to be said, but what made Silent Hill great was environment. It was always environment that made it what it was. It's what got us so involved into it, so absorbed and so terrified. It's not about throwing out some monsters here and there. If you're going to do that, here's a suggestion. If it's flight that we have as an only option, give us some creativity. A monster catches us and we die, instantly. We're forced to use our environment to fend for ourselves and get creative, but more importantly it forces us to think on our feet and truly get the blood pumping. You have great psychological elements, but you rarely use them.

    What a missed opportunity this game was.

    As in terms of the review, I agree with AR. It could of been so easily to slam this game based upon past experiences, but you kept it very fair and balanced. I also really like how you covered it and gave us a good amount of personal feelings at the end. You really get the impression of hope, yet disappointed by the end product and I can feel it very strongly in your words. Excellent job, Snicker!

  3. angelxxuan Aug 17, 2011

    going to side with this review all the way. when I got the game I was all excited, but that excitement turned to disappointment as the game quickly got underway, I wasn't even able to finish it due to the torture and I ventured towards trading it in. it was such a shame that they had to do this much torture to such an interesting franchise like silent hill.

  4. z827 Aug 18, 2011

    Woah , your pretty good in reviewing horror games.

    Whilst I didn't play the game , I did watch others play it and I must agree that the horror factor was... well , pretty absurd.
    I can't judge the storyline but the atmosphere in itself was amiss.
    Generally , we need something more twitchy , abominable and well , disgusting - that's the trademark of SIlent Hill after all XD

    Still , if we're talking about running games - Amnesia ~ The Dark Descent ~ would probably fit the bill. Though sadly , it ain't a Japanese game.
    My mind always freezes up when I come across a monster in that one. Interestingly , you can hide in wardrobes in Amnesia as well - but unlike Shattered Memories - it does help - provided that the monster doesn't see you going in it anyway.

  5. leonskxxx Aug 18, 2011

    I am not a fan of Silent Hill but I have played some..game is a something disturbing, what the fog is the most original game. trying to give an atmosphere of terror, but it comes down to that kind of radio you have that tells you if an enemy is approaching, is great for puzzles is extensive and can take multiple endings, but more bad in my opinion it is very linear. I have always preferred Resident Evil :D
    Perhaps a little harsh score of 4.67 for fans of the series :/

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