Version tested: Wii
Silent Hill: Shattered Memories wants to get to know you. Do you make friends easily? Do you work best to a plan or schedule? Have you ever been unfaithful? Have you ever used role-play during sex? Are you a private person? Do you prefer friends over family?
Placed in an analyst's chair, the game begins with the first of many such psychological evaluations. There's no 'wrong answer' as such, but part of the fun in this intriguing re-imagining of the original 1999 Silent Hill is that the experience is designed to shape itself around the kind of person - and therefore player - that you are. Being a misanthropic loner, of course, the resident shrink had a field day with me, but I guess that's the point.
Controlled through the eyes of the subject, you can either sit and focus intently on the thoughts and demands of the stern-faced evaluator, or point the Wiimote elsewhere, avert your gaze and let your eyes wander around his wood-panelled office. Eventually the headmasterly figure gives you your next test. You tick the appropriate box, grab pictures and place them in the desired location, or simply respond with a nod or a shake of the head by moving the Wiimote.
Then it's onto the action, and the almost-immediate realisation that Shattered Memories is, by some margin, the most creative and engaging game to emerge in Konami's horror series since the perversely unsettling Silent Hill 3 back in 2003. Indeed, by the end of it, you're left mulling over the highlights of one of the most compelling and sure-footed offerings the genre has ever seen.
The first thing to stress is that Shattered Memories is a whole lot more than a remake. While it retains some of the main characters and basic premise, developer Climax has changed so much along the way that calling it a 're-imagining' is more in line with the end result. Gone is the obsessive-compulsive map-checking and handle-turning trudge as you establish a route through festering, dimly-lit corridors in abandoned asylums and schools. Gone is the hapless and ungainly combat, and out goes the need to check every empty room in the search of anything not nailed down too. Gone, in short, is all the tedious stuff.
As with the seminal original, the game focuses on Harry Mason's desperate search for his young daughter, Cheryl. Having crashed his car one night on an icy road on the outskirts of Silent Hill, he wakes up in a blind panic to discover her missing. Grabbing a torch, he ventures out into the snowy night, scaling fences, checking nearby buildings for clues to her whereabouts and hollering her name at the top of his lungs.
Holding the Wiimote like a torch, you point the beam around the gloomy environment, and move with the nunchuk stick, holding Z to run. Obstacles are scaled by simply going up to them, while doors can be opened by moving to them and pressing A. There's a satisfying intuitiveness to basic movement, making the environment all the more interesting to roam around.