A series known for its ability to raise your heart rate and leave you trembling in the dark, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories aims to suck you back into the small, creepy town made famous by the franchise. Described as a reimagining of the original Silent Hill game, which came out more than 10 years ago, Shattered Memories takes a slightly different approach to finding your lost daughter. We were sent a preview build of the game and played through the short demo, but it was enough for us to familiarize ourselves with the controls, as well as get a sense of what to expect from the game.
We had the option to start from the beginning or dive straight into the nightmare, which meant that we would bypass the exploration and tutorial to jump straight into the chase sequence. Before the game started, a psych warning appeared stating: You don't just play the game, the game plays you. Similar to the demo we saw at this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo, we sat down with a psychiatrist who gave us a list of personal true-or-false questions to answer. This is supposed to shape how others in the game will react to you. We didn't exactly come across too many "people" in this demo, but we're curious to see how this adventure will play out based on our responses.
As the protagonist Harry, who has nothing on him but a flashlight and cell phone, we wandered the snow-covered town of Silent Hill in search of his daughter, Cheryl. The Wii Remote plays an important role in the game; it serves as your flashlight by pointing and waving it across the screen. It also acts as your phone, where you can hit the minus button to pull up a menu to save your game, check out the map, listen to messages, and take photographs. What's cool and kind of spooky is that there are moments in the game when your cell phone will give off feedback in areas that are of interest. You'll hear this through the remote as you get closer because the sound will get louder and louder. For example, we were able to pick up an old recording on our phone and listen in on someone's wedding tape.
Your phone is also used to take photos of people that are otherwise unseen, and you can hear their heart-wrenching messages in your voicemail. The puzzles we came across were fairly simple at this point. We didn't do much other than climb walls and open doors; when the door wouldn't open, we'd poke around the area to find a key. It seems that your solutions are generally going to be nearby, which is nice because you don't have to hike across town to grab one item to solve a puzzle that is completely unrelated.
The action didn't start until we got back to our starting point at the car and saw that everything had frozen over. A large gray door was nearby, which beckoned us to enter--as we didn't have any other option--but the place was covered in ice. Up until that moment, the game was all about atmosphere, tension, and strange sounds that would come from cluttered rooms, but we knew that something bad was about to happen.
Shattered Memories focuses more on the exploration and experience than beating creatures to a pulp. When we finally came face to face with hostile mummified-looking creatures, our only option was to run as fast as our Z button would allow. Our exit strategy was highlighted by icy blue lines, meaning that all escape doors and climbable walls were outlined in bright blue. There were multiple options, but the only goal was to get out before being swarmed by the clingy beasts. If they do happen to claw onto your back, you can throw them off by swinging the remote and nunchuk. A silhouette of a person swinging wildly is displayed at the bottom of the screen so you have an idea of which direction to wave. These chase sequences are frantic and tense, but they are thankfully contained, which is nice because you don't always have to be ready to run.
Based on our short experience with Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, we're very curious to see how the rest of the game unfolds. The game looks great on the Wii so far, and Climax Studios has done a nice job of re-creating the town by making it feel desolate yet disturbing. There didn't seem to be much background noise other than the howling wind and our footsteps as we wandered through abandoned shops, but when the chilling music and odd sounds kicked in, so did our pulse. Look for Silent Hill: Shattered Memories when it is released later this year.