Happy Halloween, everybody. As I mentioned last year, Halloween in Japan just isn’t the same. This year we (and by ‘we’, I mostly mean my three year old daughter) have spent most of the time listening to Disney’s 19-minute “Halloween Street” parade song, which we were unfortunately exposed to at Disneyland a few weeks back. It’s actually only about 4 (contrived) verses which are repeated over and over, but every other repetition is a chance for another Disney character to sing along as he or she rolls by on a float. It’s difficult to get a proper pumpkin here so we didn’t even make a jack-o-lantern (though my daughter did attend a costume party or two, which is at least close in spirit).
So to get in the Halloween mood, I booted up Silent Hill: Shattered Memories this evening. My good friend Casey already reviewed this game for me, but his review was pretty fascinating and I’ve wanted to play for quite a while. You might remember that I played this game at TGS in 2009 and was a bit disappointed. The bit I played last year was a “run away from flesh monsters” segment, which is how Shattered Memories deals with its frozen, icy version of the Otherworld. It was super frustrating because I had no idea where I was going and couldn’t seem to shake the Wiimote the right way to get the monsters off when they grabbed me. I figured it was an early build.
So I put a few hours in this evening and made it to that same spot. The bad news is, that build I played wasn’t as early as I suspected; the bare-bones menus are part of the whole menu style, and the throw-off controls are still pretty hard to do. Actually, there’s only two that are hard to do: getting grabbed on the left side or the right side. I’ve played a couple of different Otherworld sections at this point and it’s unclear to me if they want me to move both the Wiimote and the nunchuck, or just the nunchuck. Sometimes the nunchuck seems to work alone, but for those side-grabbing dudes, I am often entirely unable to get them off. Swinging the wiimote is a problem because it causes the camera to swing out of whack, which is exactly what you don’t want when trying to run through a disorienting frozen maze.
Let me back up for a second. Everything else about Shattered Memories is pretty great. I dig the control scheme, the over-the-shoulder camera works pretty well (although I still weep for the death of the Silent Hill 2 / 3 camera system; ah well, times have changed), the graphics are slick and the game design seems to be really awesome. Most importantly, it feels more like a Silent Hill game than anything I’ve played recently. Even though a whole lot has changed, the feeling of isolation and slowly increasing stress that is the series’ signature is here in force, and I’m pretty impressed with it already.
It’s just that, the whole thing is horribly marred by the run-away sections. I played through the intro all dazzle-eyed and then got to that first running otherworld section and died about 20 times. I couldn’t find the exit, couldn’t figure out how to shake dudes off, and couldn’t properly knock things down behind me to slow them down. The game is like, “oh, just use your GPS to figure out where you are going,” but there’s no time for that. Stopping or even slowing down to pull out the map results in flesh monsters jumping you, and should you be so unlucky as to get grabbed on the left or right side, it’s probably game over right there.
We’ll see how it works out. I have high hopes for this one, as Casey liked it so much and the other parts of the game seem so well done. Maybe I’m just doing something wrong. But in the worst case, this could turn out to be like Cursed Mountain, in which one of the key Wiimote gestures just doesn’t register 60% of the time, thus almost ruining the game.