Silent Hill: Shattered Memories is a horror game without weapons. You’ve got a flashlight and a map, and the only way to deal with the horrific creatures in the game is to run for your life. It’s a psychological thriller with a world that is constantly adapting to what you learn, and it keeps you on your toes by completely ignoring gaming conventions and doing it’s own thing.
First, tell me about you. Do you enjoy reading reviews? Do you read about games you haven’t played, or only ones you’ve played? What about your partner, do you have one? Do you roleplay under the sheets? The douchebag psychologist in Shattered Memories will ask you all kinds of weird questions like this, and your answers are used to determine how the game unfolds. Does that mean the game isn’t real? Is it a dream? A past event? Future event? All of the above? You’ll be guessing until the end.
The gameplay is how every Wii game should have been: the pointer controls the flashlight and it’s quick and natural. The game doesn’t have any shooting, but the aiming still feels better than half the FPS games on Wii. There’s a nice solid feeling to the camera that makes it enjoyable to look around and take your time investigating objects. Interacting with the environment is done in such a simple way that the on-screen cursor feels like your hand. Shattered Memories uses Wii motion controls properly to angle your hand and drag stuff around the way you normally would.
Enemy encounters are rare, but when they happen you better be prepared to run because they’re absolutely terrifying. Certain sections of the game turn into large dark mazes, and weird agile alien things start chasing you down trying to hump you. The screen goes fuzzy and the game starts to look like a PS1 game with only doors and ledges highlighted in blue. To get through these parts you basically have to know where you’re going, because there are alternate paths and some lead you around in circles. It’s very intense because these creatures are so fast you can’t stop; it’s a real challenge to gather your orientation and go the right way when “not dying” is the over-riding priority. The controls remain simple even in this hectic state: just hold Z to run and make sure you’re going the right way.
There are no fancy mini-games that ask you to backflip around the room and press the B button 40 times to open a closet. Simply place the cursor where a handle is, hold A+B to grab with two fingers, then swing it open. It’s so bloody easy, but I think it’s nice that the game doesn’t try to be too clever with the controls. All the simple things like opening a door give you full control over the action; deciding how slowly or wide to open a door allows you to create suspense when there is none. There aren’t many canned animations in this game, and that’s the direction games should be going in.
The graphics are mindblowingly good on the Wii. I know that’s a tard thing to say because a lot of Wii games look great, even though 480p is fucking ancient indigenous technology and “hurp durp Wee games r ugly like urine”; but the attention to detail and image quality is fantastic and stands out. Text on objects is tiny and readable with a clarity that I’ve only seen in HD games before, Conduit 2 being the only other Wii game that comes close. Posters on walls and hanging signs can all be read in their entirety, some of them contain phone numbers that you can dial on your phone just for kicks. The snow is the best i’ve seen in any game; heavy and round flakes spray the screen like white confetti. It needed to look like a real vicious snowstorm because a lot of the townsfolk have fled indoors, and the graphics really enhance the atmosphere.
If you follow me on Twitter you might be confused that I only just started playing this game yesterday. That’s true, I finished the entire game in one mammoth 15 hour session that ended last night. I never intended to play so much – the game just had a huge effect on me and did a great job continually poking my curiosity with cool things. The way the game changes the environments and throws you into such unexpected situations is like nothing else I’ve ever played. The gameplay adapts along with each situation, and the simple click and drag nature of the controls is used to full effect in a variety of playable situations. I’ve done my best but I feel like I haven’t even come close to describing what Shattered Memories is like. There’s nothing thrilling or engaging about the gameplay itself, it’s the structure of the game that makes it fascinating. Who knew a game without guns could be fun?