Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Silent Hill: Shattered Memories- Review

So if you have been keeping up with the Silent Hill franchise, then you know that the series has been in a steady decline since the 4th installment. The games have just kept deviating from the original formula of completely breaking the way you process logical thoughts to scare the shit out of you- and then some. This game is no different, but this time, that isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Shattered Memories is a reinvention of the beloved survival-horror series that drops the combat and confusing sense of navigation (which the series is famous, maybe even infamous for) in favor of a more linear, atmospheric and somewhat, puzzle-like approach. In the game, you take control of Harry Mason who is searching for his daughter Cheryl in the eerie town of Silent Hill after a nasty car crash with nothing but a flashlight with an amazing battery life to guide his way. The premise is the same as the first game but the difference is how the story plays out. You go through the same locations as you had done previously but your interactions with the characters and the world is much more immersive. As you walk around darkly-lit buildings and dilapidated streets you can observe your surrounding and Harry will take notice and make observations of what you've seen. There is incredible detail in all of the items from fake phone numbers on posters and ads to subtle touches that tell you about the people that seemingly abandoned their home. You can even interact with small trinkets and finding small touches of foreshadowing that lead to the games finale. Your flashlight really helps the textures look much more vivid with impressive lighting effects and precise handling. Everything really stands out and that affects how real the fear will be for the player. Everywhere you go is incredibly believable and you would probably have the constant worry of being attacked or having something scary pop out at you had it not been for one problem that really destroyed the horror aspect of this game.

Like in previous installments, this game features what is often called an "alternate" or "nightmare" version of Silent Hill. But instead of having everything rust up and become archaic -looking, the world ices over and then you have to find your way out which will lead you to the next location and the story progresses. The catch is that as you try to escape, the monsters of Silent Hill will begin to chase you around and kill you, so as you run around you notice the paths are highlighted blue so that you can tell what walls are climbable, what doors can open and so and all the while you can hear the demonic shrieks of the monsters getting closer. This proves to be pretty tense at times, and in some chases you are required to stop and run around to solve a puzzle while avoiding death. This is only scarier as you have to be focused on finding the answer but not getting distracted enough to be mauled by demons. What sucks about these chase scenes is that it completely gives way when you should be in fear of being scared by monsters and when you are totally safe from harms way. So whenever you are in the "normal" Silent Hill you can just walk about in ease as it never gets scarier than a flash of white and a loud bang whenever you use Harry's phone to chase static and receive some background info through messages. It isn't very heavy on the puzzles either, where the most common points where you have to think are maybe going around a side of the house and opening a wallet or drawer to find a a key.

Harry's phone is another example of a cool idea that didn't pan out completely. By the end of the game your phone is full with text and audio messages that offer some sort of history on the darker parts of the town and its inhabitants. The phone is also equipped with a camera that is used to take photos of ghosts or "memories" which results in more messages. Like I mentioned previously, there are fake numbers to call scattered all over the town. So for those that like to explore every inch of games they will be entertained by the voices of a once lively town. The phone also features a map, but it proved to be almost completely useless. To begin with, the game is incredibly linear. You don't really ever got lost as the path is always right in front of you but if during a chase scene if you feel the need to get an idea of the area you're in, it would just confound you further. The map is not clear and makes all the room look strangely bunched up. Again, this isn't a big problem as you probably won't ever have to use it.

Now, possibly the most noteworthy feature in this game is the psychological profiling. The game starts off and is often interrupted by your psychiatrist who proceeds to ask you questions and put you through mental tests about life, sex, school, death, etc. The way you answer the questions affects the outcome of the areas you explore, most of the time it is really subtle but there are moments where the game really takes a different turn based on your personality. This makes the game fun for a few more rounds once you're done if you choose to answer the questions differently.

Although, it wasn't perfect, I was thoroughly entertained by Shattered Memories. I was strung along by its eerie presentation and a surprisingly captivating story. There are a lot of awesome cinematic and interactive moments in the game. Including one really great scene where you're riding shotgun with a familiar character that I won't spoil for you. Though, it did have its fair share of disappointments like a lack of fear, basic puzzle elements and a short length, this is a decent game with a fresh start for a series that needs some new perspective and I completely welcome that with open arms. Fans of the series should really check this one out.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

o hai!

So this is gonna be one of those generic "sorry I haven't been posting a while" posts. I apologize in advance.

Sorry I haven't been posting in a while. I've had a lot of stuff I've wanted to write about but lately I've just felt really busy and lazy. Winter break is about to roll around and I take opportunities like this to stay up ridiculously late. I'm not exactly sure what it is, but being alone in the dark and listening to music at 6 in the morning gets me in the mood to think introspectively and it gives me a lot to write about. It could just be the sleep deprivation, though.

See you on the 18th!