Silent Hill: Shattered Memories
When Hell freezes over.
If you’ve never played Silent Hill: Shattered Memories then you’re definitely in luck. Technically not a PC game, this story-heavy psychological horror can be easily played on your computer using emulators. It’s initially a clunky experience if you don’t own a gamepad, but oh is it so worth it once you reach the excellent ending.
There are passing resemblances to the first game – Harry Mason is driving down a dark snowy road on the outskirts of Silent Hill when he loses control, crashes his car and is knocked unconscious. When he comes to, he finds that his young daughter is missing, and the rest of the game is spent trying to find her. Those who have played the first game will find this premise familiar, but Shattered Memories does its own thing almost immediately upon wrapping up the first cutscene.
Instead of focusing on dark cults, bizarre rituals and creepy flesh monsters, Shattered Memory is light on the occult and heavy on the psyche. In many respects it’s still a Silent Hill game, though it bears little in common with some of the classics. There’s a much larger take on character development and story, with some exceptional voice work, and less focus on retro survival horror. There’s no inventory or even a proper combat system, and long stretches of the game is spent developing characters with next to zero scares. It’s slightly bear-boned as a game as well, weighing in at around 8 hours of gameplay. But where Shattered Memories lacks in gameplay, it more than makes up with story.
Structurally, you can divide the game twofold – an exploration phase, where you go about Silent Hill, occasionally finding puzzles to solve and characters to talk to, and an action phase. Unlike in other Silent Hill games where the monsters were pretty evenly dispersed (the Nightmare World usually just made things look creepier), in Shattered Memories the two parts are completely separate. You never run the risk of facing a monster outside of the nightmare world, but once entered – and when everything turns into ice – your singular goal is to find the exit and turn everything back to normal.
When this happens, Shattered Memories turns from an ‘explore abandoned buildings’ type of game to a ‘run for your life’ kind of game. Monsters roam in the nightmare world, and will relentlessly pursue you. Escaping the nightmare world is more a question of luck, running everywhere until you find that one place that will end the segment and turn things around. Along the way you can do things to even the odds, such as deploy flares to scare off monsters.
The puzzles encountered when not running from ghoulies are also good, though most end up being rather easy. It occasionally takes a few clues to get the noggin joggin, usually delivered with voice or text messages that you can access with your phone. There’s a gradual increase of puzzle difficulty, as is the case with the Nightmare World’s chase sequences, which become increasingly maze-like. It won’t be until the very end that you may be stuck in a puzzle and might require a walkthrough. But this is still unlikely.
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As with all Silent Hill games, there are many subtle variations that make each playthrough slightly different. Not enough to justify an immediate second run – overall it’s very linear – but enough to notice a nice attention to detail. There are several endings, and a psychological mini-game of sorts that profiles you over the course of the story. Take an interest in sexual matters, for instance, and characters within the game become more sexualized. Hell, even the monsters get curves and start looking like zombie nurses of old.
And that’s Silent Hill: Shattered Memories for you, a survival horror with no combat, tons of dialogue, not even ten hours of gameplay and which was never even released on the PC. But at it’s heart, you won’t mind, since it’s much more deeper than a survival horror. Bringing up family, school days, sex and relationships in the way that the game does makes it feel a lot more personal.
System Requirements: Pentium II 233 MHz, 32 MB RAM, Win98
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