The ever favourite title among fans of the survival horror genre has seen and heard many rumours of a remake. Thus it comes with little surprise that Konami has decided to reimagine the very title that struck terror on Sony's PlayStation in 1999 with their recent release of Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. Although originally developed for the Nintendo Wii, the game has also made its way onto Sony's handheld device thanks to the team responsible for Silent Hill: Origins, Climax Group.
Shattered Memories' plot is similar to the original Silent Hill game, albeit a lot more down to earth. As the title suggests, players are thrown into the disarrayed mind of Harry Mason, a man desperately in search of his daughter, Cheryl, who goes missing after a car crash on the outskirts of Silent Hill. Nothing is as it seems as Mason's memories tend to clash with reality, which in turn, only makes things worse for the panicking father. There are also a number of subtle messages and symbols throughout the game that many may find interesting. Although the plot itself isn't anything new, it sets the stage for a brilliant narrative told through solid gameplay.
Silent Hill has always been seen through a third person view and it's no different with Shattered Memories. However, unlike the original Silent Hill, Shattered Memories has forgone combat entirely and focuses on evasion and escape instead, a very suitable method of conveying the fear and panic that fills Harry Mason's mind and body. Equipped with but a flashlight and cell phone, players have to guide Mason through the darkened corridors and roads of Silent Hill in search of any sort of clue that might lead him to his daughter. There are plenty of puzzles to solve, most of which are done by observing and interacting with Mason's surroundings as well as utilizing his cell phone. The attention to detail in these puzzles is quite impressive with the majority of things Mason sees being interactive in some form or another.
Although these mechanics work relatively well in delivering the story, it also plays out in a rather predictable fashion. The game basically shifts between 3 different modes, so to speak, throughout the game. Players will first find themselves in a clinic speaking to a therapist before shifting into the shoes of Harry Mason. Here players are tasked with several objectives including filling out a questionnaire and even colouring a picture. Mason's traits will differ depending on the player's decisions made during these sequences. The game does well in keeping these therapy sessions few and well spread out, thus maintaining the suspense and pacing of the plot.
Mason also encounters multiple nightmare sequences whenever he feels extremely distraught. As mentioned earlier, there is absolutely no combat in this game. Instead, players have to escape from these nightmares and its hellish creatures by running away and reaching the given objective. These creatures will attempt to pull Mason to the ground but players can quickly knock them off by hitting the correct face buttons. Additionally, players can tell how much danger they're in by the amount of distortion and static there is. Even though there are plenty of these nightmares throughout the game and there is an initial sense of dread about them, they quickly become rather boring chase sequences since blindly running about tends to work just as well and players will hardly ever die if they simply keep moving.
Despite the fact that the game is quite linear in terms of gameplay, the look and feel of Shattered Memories is more than impressive. The scale of the town itself is quite large and the attention to detail is much appreciated. From the falling snow to the detailed corridors and buildings of Silent Hill, it's apparent that a lot of effort went into delivering a solid presentation of a classic horror tale. The lighting, in particular, plays a large part and comes with little surprise that it does the job with impeccable execution. Players will find themselves holding their breaths on several occasions throughout the game as their torchlight flickers violently or whenever a shadow appears out of nowhere. The voice acting is also top-notch with every character sounding believable and not simply a tacked-on addition. Moreover, the ambient sounds within the town do a good enough job of keeping players on their toes throughout the game.
Unfortunately, Shattered Memories doesn't offer a lot in terms of replayability. There are multiple endings based on the choices made by players during the therapy sessions, but aside from that there is essentially no other incentive to replay the game. Puzzle solving becomes more of a chore the second time around and the solutions are usually simple enough to memorize in the first place. Nightmares aren't the most enticing either, ranging from being either too easy or just plain frustrating. However, in keeping with the Silent Hill tradition, there is also a bonus ending similar to that of the UFO ending in the original Silent Hill, where Harry Mason gets abducted by aliens.
Overall, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories isn't an effortless rehash of a horror classic but a solid game in its own right. It places more focus on the psychological than horror with several subtle messages and symbols. However, it is regrettable that there's hardly any reason to replay Shattered Memories save for the different endings. Nevertheless, fans of the genre will find its narrative surprisingly deep with several subtle messages and its gameplay to be quite satisfying.