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Silent Hill: Shattered Memories

Platform(s): PSP, PlayStation 2, Wii
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Climax
Release Date: Jan. 19, 2010 (US), March 4, 2010 (EU)


PSP Preview - 'Silent Hill: Shattered Memories'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Dec. 27, 2009 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

Harry Mason wakes up after a car accident to find that his daughter Cheryl is missing. He'll wander the snowy streets of Silent Hill searching for answers of her disappearance, but when the world freezes over, he will need to escape the lumbering demons that haunt his steps.

Climax's first Silent Hill game actually began its life as a PSP exclusive. Silent Hill: Origins eventually came to the PlayStation 2 at a budget price, but anyone who played it knew about its PSP roots. The second attempt at the franchise, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, began life as a Wii game instead. Anyone who has played the title is well aware that it was designed for the Wii and has a number of features made to take advantage of the Wii's abilities. Despite this, Shattered Memories is not remaining a Wii exclusive and is due to come out on Sony's PS2 and PSP early next year. Despite the fact that it's a port, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories for the PSP manages to retain a lot of the charm of its console counterpart, and it's shaping up to be one of the better games on the PSP.

Shattered Memories is technically a remake of the original Silent Hill game. Players are put in control of struggling writer Harry Mason, whose car slides off the road while he's driving home one day with his daughter, Cheryl. When he wakes up, he is in the small town of Silent Hill, and his daughter is nowhere to be found. Doing what any good father would, Harry sets off to find his daughter and ends up venturing into the depths of the strange snowy town. This is where the plot diverges from the original PlayStation game. Other than characters and locations with the same names, the two titles may as well be unconnected. Harry's adventures in this new Silent Hill are vastly different from the original title and represent a completely different take on the franchise. Anyone expecting references to Pyramid Head or bizarre cults will be in for a severe shock because Shattered Memories is a very different game.

The very first scene you'll see in Shattered Memories is a warning that the game will be analyzing you as you play. While this may sound like a lot of hype, it is actually true. Your actions determine what occurs in the game. The story line is divided into two segments: actual events in Silent Hill and therapy sessions at Dr. K's office. While most of your time is spent controlling Harry in Silent Hill, you'll occasionally pop into Dr. K's office, where you have to answer questions and perform psychological tests. While these segments have a big influence on what happens in the game, they're far from the only thing that it checks. Depending on what Harry does, how he reacts to people, and what things he takes interest in, the world of Silent Hill will change around him. After completing a psychological test where you have to color in a "Happy Home," you'll encounter that same house in Silent Hill, exactly as you colored it. Depending on how much interest Harry expresses in sexual matters, female characters he encounters may have different personalities and outfits. Even the monsters in the game change depending on your actions.  Everything, from the areas you explore to the game ending, is influenced by the actions you take.

Most of your time is spent in the snowy town of Silent Hill and the area around it. Harry is following the trail of his lost daughter, a trail that grows increasingly more complex as he encounters more and more mysteries. In many ways, Shattered Memories is more akin to old-school adventure games than the older Silent Hill titles. Enemy encounters are minimal, and most of your time is spent exploring and trying to find where to go next. Puzzles are less obscure than in other games in the franchise. That isn't to say that they're all completely logical, but there are very few doors locked by emblems hidden behind a puzzle that requires knowledge of Shakespeare. Instead, you'll have to manipulate objects in the environment to find keys. You'll usually be able to find hints about which objects you need to interact with and how you need to manipulate them. Some of these are simple, such as finding a lost wallet and checking inside. Others are more complex, such as altering the school planetarium to show a specific group of stars. Despite being a bit silly, it feels a lot more grounded in reality than its predecessors because of this.

While there are a number of puzzles you have to solve to complete the main quest, there are also extra hidden objects you can find by exploring the environment. These hidden secrets tend to make use of Harry's iPhone, which replaces the game's menu. Harry's iPhone has a built-in camera and GPS, as well as all of the usual phone features. Depending on where you are, it can be used as a map, to call other characters in the game, or as a warning of supernatural occurrences. Harry's phone begins to emit chirps and clicks if something paranormal is nearby, and his flashlight will flicker. If you can find the source of the supernatural activity, you'll unlock a bit of extra story. Sometimes this involves photographing ghostly echoes using your camera, while other times it involves finding an out-of-place object. Finding these strange sights will usually end up with a text message or voicemail being sent to your iPhone. Some of these provide hints as to later puzzles, while others are simply there to further explain the world around you.

Shattered Memories lacks any of the enemy encounters seen in the previous Silent Hill games. The regular world is mostly safe; there are paranormal encounters here and there, but they are spookier and less threatening. Things begin to change once the strange Otherworld begins to overtake Silent Hill and causes the world to distort and change. Unlike other Silent Hill titles, the Otherworld in Shattered Memories is a land of ice, so when the shift occurs, almost everything will be frozen, blocking off certain paths and opening others. The most dangerous change involves The Creatures. Harry is no longer safe in the nightmarish Otherworld, which is populated by bizarre misshapen Creatures, who chase Harry at every chance. While this isn't too different an idea from the other Silent Hill games, there is one major twist here: The Creatures are invincible. There is no way to kill them, so your only choice is to run.

These chase sequences are significantly more fast-paced than the rest of the game. Harry has to attempt to escape by finding a safe path through the twisting Otherworld. As the monsters are almost always chasing Harry, you can't exactly slow down and figure out where you're going so you'll have to depend on your sense of direction to make sure you're going the right way. Any path or area that Harry can take is highlighted with blue light. If Harry can push through a door or climb a fence, it will glow slightly, making it easy to tell where you can go. There are multiple routes to your destination in each of these nightmare segments, although not every route is correct. If you're not careful, you'll find yourself running in circles. This is quite dangerous, as the Creatures are not easy foes to elude. They begin almost as fast as Harry is, and any time that he gets grabbed by the enemies, they'll drain some of his health and speed. After too many grabs, Harry will be a limping mess and almost certainly destined to die. In the PSP version of Shattered Memories, you have to play a Quick Time Event (QTE) if you are grabbed. Pushing the correct button lets you toss the monsters off you, while failing means you take more damage.

There are a few ways you can slow down the Creatures, although these are momentary reprieves at best. When running past certain obstacles, Harry can press the X button to knock them over, slowing down the Creatures and allowing him to extend his lead. Since the Creatures are fast, this is nearly essential to keep Harry alive. He can also find flares scattered throughout the levels; while these items are extremely rare, they function almost as an invincibility power-up. When a flare is lit, enemies recoil from its flame and can't touch Harry. While using a flare, Harry isn't able to access his iPhone's GPS or other features, so the player will have to do without a map while "invincible." He can also drop the flare to provide himself with a temporary safe place where he can check the map or catch his breath.

The final way to avoid creatures is to find a hiding place. As long as Harry isn't within "eyesight" of a monster, he can slip into a closet or somewhere similar to let the creatures go past, but these hiding places are only temporary at best. A few creatures may pass by Harry, but they'll quickly sniff him out if he hides for too long. You can let the monsters run past and then quickly dart in the opposite direction, which is great if you accidentally went in the wrong direction and need to double back.

For those who played the Wii version of Shattered Memories, not a lot has changed here. Some of the puzzles have been simplified or altered slightly, but many are almost identical. The only real difference is that instead of using the Wii Remote, you use a mouse-like pointer to interact with things. Twisting or shaking things is done with the L and R shoulder buttons. You're not able to really move the flashlight independently of your movement, but the overall size of the light seems to have increased to compensate. As mentioned above, actions taken during the nightmare segments are now button presses instead of Wiimote movements. All in all, the game is almost a direct port of the Wii version of the game, with only minor changes made in the process. The only really noticeable change comes in the visuals, which are understandably a step down compared to the Wii version but still quite good for the PSP. The loading time is more noticeable than its console counterpart but well-hidden and rarely bothersome. There isn't a lot here to make Wii owners want to buy the game again, but for those without a Wii, it is a perfectly serviceable counterpart.

Barring any major changes before the game's release date, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories is a fairly straightforward port of the Wii version, though that doesn't mean it is without value. There are certain elements that have been simplified from the Wii version, but the best parts have been retained. The strong plot is intriguing and interesting, and there are a lot of beautiful touches that are surprisingly still intact on the PSP. The gameplay remains solid, and while there are some puzzles that were clearly designed for the Wii version, most of them work reasonably well on the PSP. Gamers who either lack a Wii or are looking for a portable version will find a lot to like here. Shattered Memories is due to hit PSP and PS2 this January, and it's already available on the Nintendo Wii.

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