Portable Psych Test
You probably wouldn’t be alone if you were thinking that the PSP port of Silent Hill: Shattered Memories wouldn’t be a very good one. Even with the Wii being as comparatively underpowered as it is, Climax’s twisted first-trip-back to the cursed town looks damn good-it’s easily one of the best third-party efforts I’ve seen on the system.
That being said, I’m tagging this review with the disclaimer that if you already own or have played Shattered Memories on the Wii (or for that matter, the PS2), there’s no real reason to re-visit the game on the PSP. However, if you’re not among this group, you’re in for a treat.
For those that many be unfamiliar with Shattered Memories’ conceit, it’s essentially a drastically different take on the events of the original game in the series. The game is presented as a series of therapy sessions (Dr. Kaufman is the therapist), with Harry re-visiting past events to try and figure out what exactly happened to him. But this isn’t the same foggy, monster-infested Silent Hill that debuted over a decade ago; there are still monsters, so to speak, but the town is a much less surreal place on its own. Instead, the unreal elements of the game come from Harry’s own experiences, lending it several shades of Silent Hill 2, while simultaneously raising issues of identity, moral ambiguity, and sexuality (some of which is dictated by your actions in-game-the game psychologically profiles you and changes accordingly, to some extent). The original skeleton of the first game is there, to some degree, but it’s buried under layers of subtext-in short, Shattered Memories is one of purest embodiments of the themes the series has become known for since its second outing.
Thankfully, Shattered Memories’ portable iteration is an amazingly faithful translation of its higher-powered console cousins; the game is pretty much entirely intact, from the title screen to the closing credits. This is a feat in and of itself, given the dynamic lighting, shadows, environmental effects, and streaming load times Shattered Memories has, but somehow Climax was able to cram the same experience into a pocket-sized UMD, with in-game loading, textures, and models taking a slight hit. This is probably due in large part to the compression the game uses, taking all the in-game cutscenes from the Wii version and playing them back as video files. Even when using the scaled-back in-game engine, this is still a pretty PSP title. With new games like this and Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker coming out, it’s good to see that the system’s power capabilities are finally (finally) being harnessed to an effective degree.
On the gameplay side, Shattered Memories’ is essentially broken up into two parts: exploration and combat-less chase sequences, with the former taking place in ‘reality’ and the latter in the game’s icy otherworld. Obviously, with the crux of the Wii version’s controls based on gesturing and other motion-based actions, Shattered Memories has also had to make some control concessions for its PSP port. One of the coolest things about the Wii version was using the Wii-mote to point Harry’s flashlight around on-screen, which clearly can’t be replicated on a non-motioncontrol-based platform. To compensate Climax gave more precedence to the look button, which, when held down, allows Harry to move his flashlight beam around using the PSP’s control stick.
Other similar concessions are made elsewhere: during the game’s nightmare sequences, Harry throws off the creatures chasing him using the PSP’s face buttons (corresponding to whether or not they’re jumping on your from ahead, behind, or either side); climbing and crawling away are sped up by tapping X; various commands for Harry’s cell phone, a touch-screen wonder that does everything from GPS and phone numbers to saving the game, are handled with D-pad hotkeys. Since using Harry’s phone to make calls is such an important part of the game, I’m glad Climax didn’t skimp on the presentation here-all of the Wii version’s superb voice acting (and Akira Yamaoka’s beautiful soundtrack) have survived intact-though I did encounter some issues with uneven sound levels, particularly comparing sometimes quiet-ish dialogue to roaring sound effects. Similarly, the textures are flatter and character models a little more angular (and when they turn to ice it’s just blue rather than an actual ice layer), but Climax has still done an admirable job with this port.
The one thing I found somewhat significant was something most people probably won’t even miss: in the Wii version, opening the large screen on Harry’s GPS, you had the option to draw a path to your next waypoint-a particularly useful tactic when navigating the otherworld’s maze-like levels. Although it wasn’t explicitly stated in the game, I found that following a path was not only helpful, but also helped ratchet up the unnerving panic when being chased by the creatures that populate the otherworld.
When you’re only two or three rooms away from being swarmed on by a group of screaming, skinless monstrosities, even taking a five second breather to pull out your map and check to make sure you’re on the right trail can be a frightening thing, since you want to start moving again as soon as possible. But without being able to follow a line, you’re just forced to run on, blind by panic. It’s not quite as scary.
Something else to note was that there didn’t seem to be as many creatures giving chase during the nightmare sequences, nor were their appearances as varied as I’d seen in other playthroughs on the Wii version. However, the population issues weren’t always present, and could’ve had more to do with the psychological decisions I’d made over the course of the game rather than owing to any technical shortcomings.
Shattered Memories is certainly not for everyone. Some will find its pacing too deliberate for their action-minded tastes, but this isn’t really trying to be a game that’s anything less than cerebral (albeit sometimes more in psychology than execution). If you don’t like thinking about narrative, this isn’t going to do anything for you. But overall, given the game’s different approach to what’s been a pretty stale series for a while now, Shattered Memories involving psychological narrative absolutely makes the game worth checking out. While it can’t entirely compare to how amazing it looks on the Wii, watching the town twist and warp under the weight of a thick layer of ice doesn’t look half-bad on the PSP.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.5 Graphics
Even on a smaller scale, Shattered Memories is an impressive-looking PSP game. 4.5 Control
The motion controls of the Wii version have been retooled for the PSP with little problem. It’s a shame you can’t manually aim your flashlight without zooming in, but item interaction is a breeze. 4.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Shattered Memories aural experience remains untouched, and in some cases, even better. The variations in the screams from the creatures can be heard easily with headphones, and the voice acting is superb. Only the sound levels can be a little unbalanced. 4.0 Play Value
It’s an unorthodox approach to Silent Hill, but Shattered Memories is certainly intriguing. Just be prepared for a more methodically paced, cerebral experience. 4.5 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.