Its overwhelming tension wears out as the game progresses, but when it thrills, it does so in remarkable fashion

User Rating: 8.5 | Silent Hill: Shattered Memories WII
Harry Mason, a somewhat unsuccessful writer, drives through a snowy night when, suddenly, he loses control, skids off the road and hits the metal fence of an old warehouse. A few moments later, he wakes up and struggles out of the car, only to notice that his daughter has gone missing. Still a little bit shaken up by the accident, he looks everywhere in the vicinity, but cannot find her. Finally, he decides to pick up the flashlight he keeps in his car and wander into the cold night in a desperate search for the seven-year-old girl. With the dim light as his only company, he ventures into Silent Hill, opening doors to dark rooms, walking around the deserted streets and interacting with a few strangers he encounters on his way, while discovering secrets and memories that the town keeps of its vanished inhabitants, like a big keeper of emotions made of concrete.

That is the haunting premise of Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, and, truth be told, it could not have been better suited for the Nintendo Wii. The very well-constructed environments, and the darkness and numerous objects that fill them up are extremely immersive, and helped by the game's excellent exploration pacing, it is a very tense experience from the get go. Harry's flashlight is not only one of the finest and most precise uses of the Wiimote ever, but it is also hauntingly suitable for the game. The fact that most environments are very detailed and blindingly dark means that things are slowly revealed to the player as his flashlight aims at the spot, turning the process of journeying into schools, stores, houses and other places a very thrilling one, because it is awfully hard to know exactly what lies in the next corner.

The game reaches onto a whole extra level of immersion by allowing Mason to interact with a big number of objects around him. In order to open some doors, for example, players will have to use the Wiimote's pointer to remove the locks; or, to find a key hidden inside a soda can, gamers will be required to twist their arm as if they were turning the can upside down. The movements are all very responsive, and drastically enhance the experience, making the whole town a lot more involving than it already is by nature.

Speaking of the town, in Shattered Memories it becomes a character of its own. As Harry explores the city, he will be able to occasionally detect creepy static sounds that indicate the proximity of objects that have high emotional value attached to them. Once those objects are properly identified, Harry will – through his phone receive either text or voice messages that retell stories somehow related to those objects. It is a welcome extra layer of detail, and it is also something that gives more meaning and reward to a well-planned exploration of the city's environments. It is as if, in addition to the game's core tale, the city itself was telling gamers stories that serve as nice companions to the main affair.

Shattered Memories is not all about walking through Silent Hill, though. Every once in a while the gameplay will be halted and players will interact with a psychiatrist that will ask generic questions about life, death, high school, marriage, relationships and other important matters. Those seemingly innocent tests will have a big impact on how the game will play out, changing the characters you will interact with during the adventure, the development of the story, the ending itself and even the design of the bizarre-looking creatures that will eventually chase after Harry. This considerable amount of possibilities makes the game awfully replayable, which is very welcome news, since the main story is a little bit too short, clocking in at about six hours.

The creatures that will haunt Harry's journey will provide downright thrilling chase sequences, where players will have to navigate through altered scenarios while being hunted down by shrieking beings that will come out of unexpected places and throw themselves onto the character's body. Since Harry packs no weapons, those moments are very nerve-wracking, and also physically intense, since that, in order to get rid of the creatures, harsh throwing motions need to be performed with the Wiimote. The downside of these chases is how frustrating they can become at times. To be safe from the beings, Harry needs to reach a specific location, but since the map can only be accessed through the cellphone – which in turn can only be brought out if Harry slows down – checking the map will most certainly mean the creatures will find you and might bring you down. As a consequence, the chases sometimes transform into a desperate and aimless search for the safe spot, something that gets frustrating after a few failed attempts.

Aside from that issue, and its relative short run, Shattered Memories has one more – more aggravating – flaw, and that is its predictability. After a while, the game's structure will become clear to players, and the moment when enemies show up, and threat actually exists, will be obvious, meaning that a considerable part of the exploration will be done without any feeling of threat. For a game that uses darkness, a flashlight and detailed environments on its behalf, that shortcoming works heavily against the software's nature. Thrillers often thrive on producing frights when they are not expected, but as time passes, Shattered Memories will only try to terrify its players when they expect to be terrified, and that is a big waste.

Yet, overall, Shattered Memories is more than worthy of one's time. As far as frightening games go, it might be one of the scariest titles of the generation, but a few key flaws get on its way to rise to sheer greatness. Even if it is not haunting all the way through, Shattered Memories remains as one of the best uses of the Wiimote, including an incredible sound design that uses the Wiimote speaker as a disturbingly realistic cell phone sound outlet, some of the greatest realistic scenarios to ever show up on a Wii game and a handful of clever puzzles that will require logical thinking and deep analysis of the environment. Its overwhelming tension wears out as the game progresses, but when it thrills, it does so in remarkable fashion.