Silent Hill: Shattered Memories Review

 

Title: Silent Hill: Shattered Memories
Developer: Konami
Game Type: PlayStation Portable
Download: 760 MB
NA Availability: Digital Download | PS3 Transfer Required
EU Availability: Currently Unavailable

The horror genre has been changing, over the years.  From back in the 1990s, there have been two major gaming franchises that people go to for horror: Resident Evil and Silent Hill.  These two franchises offered some very unique horror experiences for gamers, from the jump scares of a zombie bursting in the window in Resident Evil 2 to the creepy atmosphere or wandering through the foggy streets of Silent Hill.

As the years have gone by, both of these franchises have changed and evolved.  While they both started as very “Tank” type horror games, they’ve been experimenting with different genres.  Many of the recent Resident Evil games, for example, have played a lot like Third Person Shooters/Action games with horror elements thrown into the mix.  Silent Hill, however, has gone through a lot of changes in the past few years.

Back about five years ago, Konami announced that they were making a “re-imagining” of the first Silent Hill that would focus more on the psychological elements of the series than the combat elements.  What came out of that was a game that played very much different from all of the Silent Hill games before it.  Having released on the Wii, PS2, and PSP, here is our official review of the psychological horror game, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories!

Story

The story of Shattered Memories has two perspectives, and those perspectives change as you progress through the game.  As you begin the game, you will be set as a patient in a therapy session with a Dr. Michael Kauffman, a character that players of Silent Hill 1 and Origins should recognize.  You put in some general questions and begin what feels like a therapy session about something that is plaguing your mind.

The other section of the story is where you are controlling Harry Mason (the Main Character from the original Silent Hill), as he explores the town of Silent Hill, where he supposedly lives, as he searches for his daughter Cheryl, whom went missing after a car crash.  The perspectives between these two switches back and forth as you complete parts of the story, and showcases the controlling of Harry Mason as a sort of retelling, as if you are telling Kauffman this in your therapy session.

The story of Shattered Memories is nothing shattering, no pun intended.  There are a lot of psychological elements to the game, and it simulates the therapy and retelling well until the twist ending, but the story is not going to be something that will stand out in the midst of other games in the series, like the original or Silent Hill 2.

Gameplay

There are two main ways to play this game: Therapy Sessions and Exploring Silent Hill.  You will not have a choice between one or the other, as you will encounter both of them as you play through the game, from the calm beginning to the very twisted ending of the game.  There will be multiple ways to play through these, as well as a lot of different factors that can change how the game plays out.

In Therapy Sessions, you will be speaking and listening to Kauffman as he goes through various parts of what you’re telling him as well as what he’s having you do.  There will be various mini-games to perform as you go through the Therapy Sessions.  These can be as simple as answering whether you’ve cheated on a partner or as lengthy as coloring an extensive picture of your home.  Each of these sessions only lasts a few minutes before it takes you back to the rest of the game.

Exploring Silent Hill will take up most of your time.  As Harry Mason, you will be exploring the somewhat-linear town, looking for Cheryl.  As you play through the game, you will have to solve simple puzzles to get past doors as well as investigating areas to find key items and listen to various logs and calls that will explain parts of the town to you and help you on your way.

Your Cell Phone will be used a lot in the game, as it can be used for multiple things.  As you play through the game, you will receive calls and voicemails that you will need to listen to, and the phone also has the Map built into it, showing you where you need to go.  There is also a camera feature that lets you take pictures of anything you want, but more importantly to film paranormal activity, like a ghost on a swingset or helping you investigate various objects.

One of the most unique parts of Shattered Memories is its lack of combat.  When the “Otherworld” takes over, the world will be covered in ice and you will be surrounded by hideous monsters called Raw Shocks.  These will chase you and, unlike previous Silent Hill games, you cannot hurt them and you cannot kill them.  You have no choice but to either run from them and throw them off you, or get taken and killed by them.

When you’re in these sequences, you have to run through Blue-lined doors and gates until you escape from the Ice World sequence and the world goes back to normal.  When you’re running, you can knock objects to obstruct their path or hide in closets or lockers.  You will need to use everything available to you as Raw Shocks can run much faster than Harry can.  These sequences were made to encourage more of a tension effect than trying to attack enemies with guns and breezing through the area.

While you are progressing through these areas, the biggest part of the game will be present, and that is the Psych Profile.  Shattered Memories will be profiling you as you play through the game, and everything you do will effect this.  You will get a different profile, depending on what you look at in buildings, how you answer questions in the Therapy sessions, what you take pictures of, and more.  The Psych Profile will alter the appearance of the Raw Shocks and will determine which of the 8 endings you will receive.

The game will not last as long as most other titles of the series.  While there are 8 endings you can achieve, each trip through the game should only take you about 6-7 hours.  That is plenty for you to get a good amount of game time for the money you are paying on PSN for the game, but it isn’t an incredibly long game.

Controls

As you play through the game, controls are something that aren’t hard to get used to, but they aren’t explained to you, completely.  As you play through the game, some controls are shown to you as you play through the game, but not all of them are.  One such control is turning the flashlight on and off.  We discovered this to be the Triangle Button and only after we pressed the button did the in-game “Tutorial” prompt appear to tell me that it was on the Triangle Button.

The Left Analog Stick will be used for controlling Harry Mason as well as controlling the camera and cursor in the Therapy Sessions.  The D-Pad is used for using various features on your Cellphone.  The Face Buttons will be used for most other things.  The X Button is used to interact with objects and puzzles and the Square Button is used to run while you are moving.  The Triangle Button is used to turn your flashlight on and off, and the Circle Button is used to open the Cell Phone manually.

The L and R buttons are used as well.  The R button lets you zoom in on an object you’re looking at.  This is used to have Harry comment on certain objects for the Psych Profile.  The L button is used to look behind you while you’re moving.  This is useful during the Ice World sequences, so you can see how close the enemies are to catching up with you.

Overall, the control scheme isn’t hard to get used to.  It would just be nice if it all had been explained to you at the beginning of the game.

Presentation

Silent Hill: Shattered Memories was definitely one of the higher-end PSP games, when it came to graphics.  It looked much more detailed than the previous handheld entry in the series, Silent Hill Origins.  On the PS Vita’s screen, the game still looks decent, but stretching onto the Vita’s screen definitely made the graphics take a hit.  While the depth and shadows still look good, almost everything now has jagged edges over it, other than the Raw Shocks.  Still playable, but doesn’t look nearly as good as it did on the PSP.

The way the game plays is also something to be addressed.  While it is commendable that the full PS2/Wii experience was put onto the PSP with this game, some of the game sequences do have some technical issues.  Whenever you open doors or use your camera, the game slows down and lags.  The game never freezes, but the slowdown is very apparent.

Overall

Silent Hill: Shattered Memories is a very different kind of horror games, whether you’re a fan of Silent Hill or the horror genre in general.  The game does make itself unique with its Psych Profile and a focus on tension rather than combat.  However, the game only lasts around 6 hours and has some very noticeable technical issues that will prove to be an annoyance.

The PlayStation Vita Review Network Rates Silent Hill: Shattered Memories a 7/10  

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