Silent Hill first burst onto the PlayStation in 1999, horrifying a legion of youngsters (and some adults, probably) whose parents didn't grasp that videogames can be adult in theme. Eleven years and eight versions on, an all new generation is about to become haunted by Konami's latest psychological horror game, now with all-new tactile involvement enabled by Nintendo's motion-sensitive platform.
For those not familiar with survival horror games, of which this is one, the object is not to obliterate the horrific nightmares that stalk you, but simply to survive. The odds are stacked against you and typically the "run" button will be what you turn to when the bad things arrive.
In Shattered Memories, you play a man who, thanks to an accident, has become separated from his daughter. Very soon after first going to look for her, it becomes apparent that all is not as it seems within the sleepy hollow of Silent Hill (no great surprise for fans of the series). The darkness is not just due to the time of day, with eery supernatural goings-on two-a-penny in this out of the way hamlet.
Silent Hill takes this already oppressive, apprehensive premise and dials it up to a touch over 9,000 by not only making everything dark but by giving the player a motion-controlled torch (typically the only source of illumination, no less) with which to illuminate things.
Actually holding the "torch" (Wii Remote) in your hand as you navigate this oppressive, moody environment is something you cannot truly appreciate until you actually do it. The way the light dances around, reflective or light-coloured surfaces flare up and the very shadows themselves seem to haunt the peripheral of your vision makes this one game you should never, ever play alone.
The other Wii-integration stuff is similarly well thought out. Whether gripping dials and turning them, shoving zombie dead things away from you or just opening a wallet, the controls are intuitive and engaging. Silent Hill, perhaps, represents the best and most well-rounded motion controls yet seen. Nothing is superfluous; at no point do you feel like you're "waggling".
Silent Hill's Wii considerations go further than just the obvious, too - the use of the Wii Remote's speaker for your cell phone is such a logical extension, actually leveraging the low-fi nature of the device and its location in your hand to form a compelling analogue of an actual cell phone.
Atmosphere is far more than just skin deep, thanks in no small part to the outstanding audio. It's not just the moody effects that excel but the very music itself, leveraging every musical mechanic to drive your senses well beyond the tension levels you previously would have thought to be your limit. If you like horror movies, you'll have an idea of the sorts of things at play here (violins, controlled pitch, etc) but the level of expertise with which they have been applied in Shattered Memories is a truly awesome thing to behold.
The story itself has just the right amount of "Really? Is that what's happening? Or is there some other explanation?" conundrum to keep you engaged, with a serious level of supernaturally inexplicable activity and more than a pinch of Japanese weirdness. Essentially, if you're a fan of the genre and like a tense narrative with a twist in the tail, you'll lap this up and be looking for more. Character dialog is delivered with the appropriate tenor (particularly when things get tense) and your ability to control where you look during the cutscenes adds a certain twist - especially when Sheriff Sideboob (not her real name) engages you in discussion with a few less buttons done up than are probably standard procedure.
The game also has a certain amount of dynamism to it, as it observes your behavior and customizes the experience to ensure a very personalized horror results. The ending itself will depend on your actions throughout the game - should you be able to stand the tension that long, obviously.
If you like survival horror games and you have a Wii, buy this immediately. Buy a second copy in case the first one wears out. If you don't have a Wii, hire one to play this. It's that good. Just don't play it alone - it's that good.