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Critical Reception: Konami's Silent Hill: Shattered Memories

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Konami's Silent Hill remake Shattered Memories, which reviews describe as "a nostalgic love letter addressed to diehard series fans."
This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Konami's Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, which reviews describe as "a nostalgic love letter addressed to diehard series fans." Shattered Memories currently earns a score of 76 out of 100 at Metacritic.com. GameSpot's Lark Anderson scores Shattered Memories at 8 out of 10, claiming that it succeeds in reimagining the first entry in the Silent Hill series. "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 intense, chilling atmosphere," he writes. "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." Players will spend much of the game fleeing from an army of terrifying creatures. "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," Anderson says. "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." Anderson praises Shattered Memories for its effective use of the Wii Remote. "Power is out across most of the town because of the snowstorm, and with everything bathed in darkness, only your flashlight -- guided by where you point your Wii Remote -- can light the way," he explains. Anderson continues: "Similarly, nearly every major action you perform, from opening up cabinets to casting off the monsters that pounce on you in a nightmare requires some sort of gesture, which produces an almost tactile sense of immersion. The simple puzzles you encounter also require motions, such as twisting a radio dial to the proper station or adjusting a planetarium projector." "Throughout the years, the Silent Hill franchise has gradually lost focus of its psychological roots and moved instead toward an ultimately subpar, more action-oriented experience," Anderson notes in conclusion. "Shattered Memories is a fantastic return to the core concept of personal fear, and though its developers made some unorthodox decisions -- such as removing combat entirely -- those decisions have paid off handsomely." At Game Informer, Tim Turi rates Shattered Memories at 6.25 out of 10. "Konami's remake of the survival horror gem has ditched the original's industrial deterioration, combat, and weapons in exchange for corrupting ice, pacifism, and a flashlight," he begins. "Mix in psychological profiling and Shattered Memories is a very different game, for better and worse." Turi finds that the psychological aspect is one of Shattered Memories' more interesting features. "You begin the game by filling out a surprisingly personal questionnaire that pries into everything from your virginity to your faithfulness," he says. "Harry's disposition, characters' appearances, routes through town, and even the monsters stalking you undergo noticeable changes based on your answers." "It's not enough to disturb you to the core of your psyche," Turi admits, "but it definitely warrants another playthrough." Gameplay is often frustrating, however. "Controlling Harry is an awkward affair that's exacerbated by instances when you're chased by meat monsters," Turi describes. "Just when you thought negotiating your escape through the confusing environments couldn't get worse, the underwhelming monsters pounce on you, initiating a frustrating and unresponsive motion-control prompt." "Miming the action of throwing off enemies after being dogpiled taxes your patience," Turi continues, "which is further amplified by Harry's decreased speed after surviving an encounter." "Shattered Memories' frustrating control flaws and dull pacing make it a hard game to recommend," Turi warns. "Its engaging characters, improved story, and unique profiling mechanic only make it worth checking out for diehard Silent Hill devotees willing to wade through the muck." GamePro's Will Herring gives Shattered Memories 2.5 out of 5 stars. "Despite its masterfully frightening origins, the Silent Hill series fell victim to contrived and confusing plot twists," he notes. "Luckily, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories returns to the game's glory days by re-imagining the first Silent Hill and combining it with a more psychological ploy that harkens back to the classic second installment." The psychological aspect does little to encourage replay, however. "While the psychoanalyzation angle is certainly an ambitious one, I just didn't feel like it went quite far enough," Herring observes. "Two separate playthroughs of Shattered Memories with polar-opposite answers did alter character dialogue and appearances, but the game's simplistic puzzles and repetitive nightmare sequences were left entirely untouched." "Add in the fact that the game can easily be completed in about five hours," he continues, "and there isn't an awful lot to keep players around for another playthrough." Herring feels that the lack of combat negatively impacts the experience overall. "Unlike previous Silent Hill titles, Harry is unable to actually fight his faceless foes, instead resigned to meekly pushing them aside and scurrying away," he says. "Discretion is the better part of valor unless, of course, you're mired in a dense fog that surrounds a labyrinthine city, at which point it just becomes jarringly annoying." "At the end of the day, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories isn't a bad game by any means," Herring concludes. "It's an incredibly original and ambitious project, but the weight of its problems, both old and new, keep it from being much more than a nostalgic love letter addressed to diehard series fans."

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