You sit in a psychiatrists office, nervously answering the questions he’s firing over at you. Ocassionally you glance up, to see him calmly watching you.. The questions are getting a little personal. You can’t help feel that he’s maybe judging you. And he is. Or at least the game that he’s part of is. In Silent Hill : Shattered Memories these vignettes in the psychiatrist office- which punctuate the game- will come back to haunt you. Sometimes literally. Because depending on your answers, the game tailors itself to what it images your psyche is. Characters change. Locations. Colours. Moods and moments. At the end it even delivers a full detailed psychological report about you . Because that’s what this game sets out to do- get under your skin, get into your head, and mess you up.
It’s hard to even call Shattered Memories a game. There’s no combat. No fights, weapons, health packs, none of that. You- or the character of Harry Mason- drift through a snowy deserted town- searching for your missing daughter. There are a few puzzles, but nothing taxing. And that’s it pretty much it. Just you, the lonely streets and your flash-light. Looking to unlock memories, hints to what might have happened, to where she might be. It’s atmospheric and eerie.
Sure, there are chase sequences. The world creaks and aches and turns to ice, and faceless things come hurtling after you as you dash through doors, looking for a way out. But you can’t die. If these deformed creatures get you and drag you down, you just re-start back at the beginning of the sequence. These sections are probably the low-point of the game- almost a sign that developers Climax Studios didn’t feel confident enough to ship the game without putting some sort of action scenes in. It’s worth saying that by the end of the game, stopping and thinking about the chase sequences becomes a hell of a lot more interesting.
And it’s in that final stretch that Shattered Memories all comes together quite beautifully. That’s probably the toughest thing about discussing it- the ending changes the game entirely and how you view everything that’s gone before. It’s a stunning little sequence- beautifully done and surprisingly affecting. And when it’s all over, and you’ve had a chance to digest what just occurred, to unravel all the knots, you realise that the game has being fucking with you, right from the start.
Of course the game barely made a dent in the charts. No combat? No rifles? No weapons? No sale. There’s a new Silent Hill on the way, and big shotguns and crazy creatures are back. It’s a shame- this strange little game didn’t just suggest a new direction for the series, but for games themselves. As weird as it sounds, a game where you do a lot of walking and very little happens turned out to be much more forward thinking than every other title on the shelves.