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From the moment you turn on Silent Hill: Shattered Memories and are informed that the game "plays you as much as you play it", it's evident that you're in for something quite different. Indeed, this is not the Silent Hill you may have come to expect. The fog, rust and awkward combat of the past have been replaced by snow, ice and lots of terrified running. Developer Climax Studios has reinvented the aging franchise for the better by removing the tedium, as well as going back to the basics of strong, psychological storytelling and an intense, chilling atmosphere. Regardless of how you feel about previous Silent Hill games, Shattered Memories is a fresh and welcome new beginning that's good for a scare.
This isn't going to turn out well for anyone involved. (Credit: Konami)
When loving father Harry Mason loses control of his car on the icy streets of a town called Silent Hill and crashes, everything begins to unravel for him. Awaking in the snow, Harry is horrified to discover that he can't find his 7-year-old daughter, Cheryl, and, armed with little more than a flashlight, sets off into the darkness to find her. As he traverses the dangerously snowed-in town, Harry meets and interacts with several of its residents, from a local cop to an overly familiar party girl, struggling to come to grips with the fragments of memory the accident left him with, as well as his constantly shifting reality.
There's a dark side to Silent Hill, and every so often, the world freezes over before your eyes as supernatural glaciers rise from the earth to consume almost everything. Trapped within the mazes of ice formed in these frozen nightmares, Harry must run, jump, climb, and crawl his way out as he is stalked relentlessly by the pale-skinned, shrieking ghouls that emerge to hunt. They are many and cannot be harmed, so Harry has no choice but to run for his life as these hideous monsters give chase. Each nightmare is its own self-contained maze of twists and turns, but without any sort of useful map to guide you to freedom, you need quick thinking, a strong sense of direction, and a little bit of luck to find the way out. If the monsters succeed in bringing you down, you're returned to the beginning of the maze to try again, but while they can sometimes take several tries, these mazes are rarely frustrating.
Though these nightmares represent the only moments in the game in which you're actually threatened, you're constantly vigilant because of the fantastic and haunting atmosphere of every area in Silent Hill, from Midwich High School to Lakeside Amusement Park. Power is out across most of the town because of the snowstorm, and, with everything bathed in darkness, only your flashlight can light the way. Nearly every action you perform, such as opening up cabinets, requires moving around a cursor with the PSP analog nub and hitting a face button. These controls work remarkably well, and the slow, deliberate pace with which you interact with objects increases your sense of immersion. The simple puzzles you encounter are also solved in this manner, like twisting a radio dial to the proper station or adjusting a planetarium projector. These controls not only work without a hiccup, but are also extremely simple, which helps to pull you into the haunted town almost immediately. And haunted it is, for Silent Hill is a swirling vortex of paranormal activity with something new lurking around almost every corner.
If there's a way to make something creepy, Silent Hill does it. Even chirpy cheerleaders. (Credit: Konami)