Video Game Review: Silent Hill: Shattered Memories [PSP, 2009]

Silent Hill: Shattered Memories [PSP, 2009]

Silent Hill: Shattered Memories
System: PSP
Developer: Climax Studios
Publisher: Konami Digital Entertainment
Release Date: December 8, 2009

Let me begin by saying that I haven’t played a Silent Hill game since the original PSOne classic came out in 1999. Apparently I am missing out because I have heard nothing but rave reviews for most of the PS2 games. As a way for me to get back into the series, I picked up Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. Some will say that this is a bit of an odd choice to begin with since the game labels itself as a “revisioning” of the first game, and it is quite a bit different from the the rest of the series. Still, I got sucked into the psychological side of Shattered Memories, and that’s what maintained my interest throughout.

Right from the start, the game opens with a red “Psychology Warning” screen similar to the FBI warnings that preface movie DVDs. The message claims that “it gets to know who you really are” and that “the game plays you as much as you play it.” Bold statements to be sure, but I have to admit I was intrigued by this idea.

Silent Hill: Shattered Memories [PSP, 2009]

The game uses psychology in the form of therapy sequences in which you answer a series of personal questions. Your answers to these questions ultimately shape the game around you, and there will be several differences in the game depending on your responses. Some are subtle, such as a tavern turning into either a sports bar or an Irish pub, but others are significant and can lead to some pretty wild endings. It’s a neat feature, and I would love to see more games do something like this.

Just like the original Silent Hill, you play as Harry Mason as he searches for his missing daughter in the eponymous town. Some familiar faces pop up but they are completely different than you may remember. This is a brand new adventure, and the story is a fresh take on the original concept.

The game is decidely split into two styles of gameplay. The main portion revolves around Harry searching frantically for signs of his daughter, finding clues and asking people for help. These segments are completely devoid of combat, which takes some getting used to. Whereas typical survival horror games rely on the unknown and keeping an eye out for unwanted surprises, Shattered Memories has none of this. In the main segments, there are no enemies and it is impossible to get hurt. Instead, occasional puzzles are thrown in the mix to keep interest while Harry is exploring the town. This could get pretty boring actually, but Climax keeps the suspense in tact by throwing a bunch of plot curveballs your way while focusing on some interesting character development.

Silent Hill: Shattered Memories [PSP, 2009]

The other style of gameplay comes in the form of nightmares. In these scenes, nearly everything in the world turns to ice, and Harry has to escape these environments to get things back to normal. The catch is that there are enemies in these areas, and they can kill you. You can’t fight back other than to throw them off your back. This can lead to some frantic situations when a bunch of them hunt you down and jump you at the same time. Unfortunately, while these segments are meant to provide some sense of thrills in the game, they are very poorly executed. The nightmares essentially turn into a series of trial and error sequences where you quickly run from door to door with no clear idea of where to go next. There’s nothing you can do other than keep trying to find the exit while hoping the enemies don’t catch up to you. After a while, I began to dread these moments. Not because they were scary, but because they were just not fun.

It’s a shame that the nightmare gameplay is so tedious because I really enjoyed the rest of the game, even with its lack of real combat. The story kept me interested throughout, and the ending was just phenomenal. Seriously, the end made me glad I stuck around for the entire game (which admittedly is very short). Shattered Memories is a good effort that utilizes unique psychological aspects, but it will surely alienate some gamers since it isn’t a proper survival horror title. Still, it’s worth a shot if nothing other than to see “how the game plays you.”

7/10

Quick & Dirty #7: Kaboom, Kill the Irishman, Scribblenauts and more

It’s time for another roundup of what I have seen/played lately.

MOVIES

Kaboom [2011, Araki]
Kaboom [2011, Araki]
One of the worst movies I have seen in a while. With a convoluted sci-fi plot as its base, Kaboom meanders all over the place by including random and unnecessary casual sex encounters. Actually, these sex scenes are all the movie has going for it in terms of entertainment. The rest of the movie is a scrambled mess with weak dialogue and wasted acting talent. Araki tries too hard to be David Lynch here and ultimately comes across as a poor imitation. 3/10

Kill the Irishman [2011, Hensleigh]
Kill the Irishman [2011, Hensleigh]
Crime drama about the life of Danny Greene, an Irish-American mobster who was both directly and indirectly involved with a ton of car bombings in 1970s Cleveland. Ray Stevenson delivers a solid performance as Greene, and there are some solid supporting roles from Christopher Walken and Val Kilmer as well (though it must be stated that they aren’t on screen nearly as much as the trailer and promo material would suggest). The movie doesn’t try anything new and it could have used much better development for certain characters, but it’s still a decent enough gangster movie. 6/10

Me and You and Everyone We Know [2005, July]
Me and You and Everyone We Know [2005, July]
I dug this quirky indie dramedy, but not quite as much as Roger Ebert, who named this as one of the top ten movies of the last decade. There is a lot to like about this movie, including John Hawkes and some great performances from the child actors. While some of the sequences fell flat, there were some genuinely hilarious moments such as the online interactions between two children and an anonymous stranger. I felt like the Miranda July tried too hard with some of the proceedings, but I still liked the movie’s eccentricities. 7/10

VIDEO GAMES

2010 FIFA World Cup [PSP, 2010]
2010 FIFA World Cup [PSP, 2010]
I got sucked back into World Cup fever after the USA Women’s team’s excellent run this year, and ended up picking this game back up. It brought back a lot of memories, and I have had a blast guiding the men’s Team USA through the tournament. I am looking forward to trying out the “Captain Your Country” mode in which you create your own player and lead them to greatness. The game’s got a pretty diverse soundtrack, and the vuvuzelas add to the atmosphere (for better or for worse). I am digging it, as it is pretty good as far as portable sports games go.

Scribblenauts [DS, 2009]
Scribblenauts [DS, 2009]
This little game intrigued me when I first heard about it back in 2009, but I just now got my hands on it. The concept is pretty cool, no doubt, since it allows you to type in any word you can think of to solve puzzles. I just started playing and have only completed a handful of the first level’s puzzles, but I am enjoying it so far. Some of the controls seem a little touchy, such as climbing up ladders and using items from that, but that’s not a huge issue. I look forward to digging into some of the more challenging levels.

Silent Hill: Shattered Memories [PSP, 2009]
Silent Hill: Shattered Memories [PSP, 2009]
This is the first Silent Hill I have played since the original PSOne title. Apparently this is a “re-imagining” of said game, although it feels a lot different than I remember. I like the psychological aspects of this, but the lack of combat reduces the scare factor quite a bit. I am enjoying it so far, but it’s not blowing me away.