As one of the two biggest horror game franchises in the world, the one thing Silent Hill hasn’t experienced before is the string of remakes that its nearest competitor, the Resident Evil series, has seen over the years – until now, that is. Silent Hill: Shattered Memories is the first “reboot”, if you will, of the Silent Hill series, being a retelling of the first game. I sometimes wonder in amusement whether the title was chosen because the developers knew that a large percentage of the fans would whine about how it wasn’t exactly the same as the first game, just with better graphics.
Thankfully, it’s more than that. Silent Hill: Shattered Memories is an ambitious idea that takes the first game in an entirely different direction. The basic premise is the same: Harry Mason is out driving with his daughter, Cheryl, when something causes their car to spin out of control and crash into the highway barrier outside Silent Hill. When Harry wakes up, he realises that Cheryl is missing and sets off into the cursed town to find her. This is where the differences start to creep in. For starters, this tale is told after-the-fact from Harry’s viewpoint as he sits in front of a psychiatrist. From time to time the psychiatrist will bring Harry out of his tale and ask him to complete some kind of exercise. All of these exercises actually have an effect in the game too, which is intriguing. Another change is that Harry is actually a resident of Silent Hill rather than an outsider, and some of the characters we remember are quite different now. For instance, Cybil Bennett, the cop, is no longer blonde and a lot less sympathetic than we remember.
The gameplay is also quite different. For starters, there is no combat at all. Yes, you read that right. Instead, Harry will be frequently attacked by demonic creatures, and his only option is to run like hell. These chase sequences are actually very well handled and provide a white knuckle sense of urgency we seldom enjoy in games, particularly when Harry reaches a T-junction and must decide which way to go while the nasties come every closer.
The greater part of the gameplay is comprised of exploration and puzzle solving. Harry’s main tool is his cell phone, which he can use as a GPS, to phone numbers he finds, and to take photos of items in the world to solve puzzles or acquire background information. The graphics are very good, for something on the level of Wii, PS2 and PSP, and the town is highly detailed, making it a joy to explore.
It’s a shame that avid followers of games like Silent Hill are so opposed to new ideas, because Shattered Memories really is a nice change and a great new take on the original Silent Hill story. It also has some compelling gameplay elements and a few original ideas to boot.