Silent Hill: Shattered Memories (reviewed on PSP, also available on PS2 and Wii)
Developed by Climax Group
Published by Konami
Silent Hill: Shattered Memories commences with the creepiest and most unprofessional psychiatrist you’ll have ever seen, staring smugly at you as his swills his liquor. You were warned about this, of course: prior to even the menu screen you’re boldly informed that the game will ‘psychologically profile’ you as you play, using whatever information it can glean from your behaviour against you. But as each plot revelation cuts back to this therapist’s office, with his Rorschach tests and other laughably clichéd methods, you do have to wonder if this is the extent the ‘psychological profiling’ goes to.
It’s not. Shattered Memories is surprisingly subtle like that. This combatless retelling of the series’ first game is indeed responsive to more than just your inkblot interpretations. Much of the explorative gameplay unfolds in this (admittedly disappointingly) linear depiction of Silent Hill, with the titular town and its characters moulding themselves around your behaviour. Exploration dips into voyeurism as you recover chilling recordings of strangers’ lives, and is punctuated occasionally by ‘nightmares’ in which the Rorschachs dissolve into mazes populated by the ravenous Raw Shocks – monstrous, faceless females whose deformations vary according to your actions. Occasionally meandering and verging on brilliant, often just plain irritating, these escape sequences are merely tolerated to expedite your return to a curiously frosted reality.
Still, armed with only a flashlight and a phone, the game proves itself an intelligently constructed adventure, if not a little safe compared to the series’ previous offerings. Whatever scepticism you approach the game’s ability to ‘play you’ with will be shattered brilliantly by its astonishing conclusion. Just like the smarmy psychiatrist, there’s more to this game than meets the eye – it may just succeed in its boisterous claim to screw with you.