Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Silent Hill: Shattered Memories

The biggest question about Silent Hill: Shattered Memories is why it has that name. It’s billed as a “re-imagining” of the first title in the groundbreaking psychological horror franchise, but that’s a bit generous—it revisits the premise of Harry Mason’s search for his missing child following a car crash, but otherwise, there’s little to recognize. Even the titular town, known for being alternately foggy and rusty, has been reconceptualized as a town of perpetual snow that ices over when things get scary.

And things get wonderfully scary. Shattered Memories accomplishes a significant feat in making terror go hand-in-hand with the Wii—the Wii-mote works brilliantly as a flashlight beam, and the haunted world Harry searches is tactile, with object-manipulation puzzles that groan and clank so they almost feel real. A cell phone as both narrative and gameplay device makes creepy calls and ghostly static thrillingly tangible with the Wii remote.


The game is combat-free, and those sequences that do demand confrontation with naked, faceless monsters are about running, not fighting. Sometimes these parts don’t work—hurtling through the dark in a panic, using motion controls to fling aggressors off Harry in a search for the exit, is interesting the first several times, but it eventually becomes frustrating. Far preferable are the well-paced exploration portions, when environmental events constantly dare Harry to face his fears.

First-person sessions with a psychoanalyst act as the game’s framing device, as if Harry were recalling the events in Silent Hill through therapy. Shattered Memories aims to “psychologically profile” players, and Harry is often given questionnaires and activity books that affect the game subtly—a cool touch, but too subtle to accord replay value, which is an issue, given the game’s relative brevity.

Shattered Memories superficially ticks off a checklist of traditional franchise elements: Psychological mumbo jumbo, schismatic world, disturbed protagonist, squicky enemies—but it never entirely feels like a Silent Hill. Which is why it’s a shame a unique, accessible horror experience had to ride the rep of another series, when it’s innovative enough to stand on its own.