Have some Bataille for your troubles. Go on; he won’t mind. He’s dead. Sort of like that space tiger.
It’s no secret that I have a special relationship with Silent Hill. From Silent Hill 2‘s rightfully over-lauded melancholia to Silent Hill 3‘s no less intellectual garment-soiling primal fear, these are not just some of the most intelligently designed, ambitiously unsettling, symbolically charged video games out there. They’re my definition of the apex of horror, outclassing nearly any film or book you can throw at me (Brian Evenson is a special case). I even loved the original game, despite its wooden acting/animations and repeated textures (the attention to detail, potent with hidden meaning, is part of what made later games so special), and don’t get me started on Silent Hill 4‘s woefully under-appreciated take on perspective, space/habitation, and good old Oedipal themes.
Then the movie came out, and somehow the original geniuses behind the series got dropped from the equation. No longer a series, Silent Hill has become a franchise, farmed out to a succession of little-known Western developers. While the new games usually have something to recommend them, it’s as though my favorite sleepy-creepy town has finally been taken over by McDonalds, Starbucks, and tourists. Now, there’s nothing wrong with tourists; I’ve been one on several occasions. But nothing can bring DOOM to a small town quite like a bunch of tourists clogging the streets with metered parking and the air with sunscreen.
I was understandably wary when Silent Hill: Shattered Memories was announced. A retelling of the original game, from the developers of the unmentionable Silent Hill: Origins? On the Wii? With ice monsters, glowing doors, and an “innovative” approach to combat? I went right on being wary for most of the time I spent playing the game. Then I got to the end, and was surprised to find that, despite its hideous flaws, I loved it. Then I played it again immediately afterward, and eventually got around to writing a review. Don’t let the length of this post fool you; this isn’t it. The review is, as per usual, on Innsmouth Free Press. Want a taste? Well, I suppose I can indulge you, just this once.
When Shattered Memories really works, it plays on our knowledge of past events to create an uncanny sense of déjà vu. The brilliant psychological framing device complements this unanchored feeling: As the story unfolds, the concerned doctor will frequently interrupt with questions or activities, such as colouring in a picture or responding to Rorschach blots. The player’s responses then feed back into the story, subtly altering characters’ dialogue or appearance. The final impression is of an obsessive loop, a story that must be revised and embellished endlessly, literally warping reality until it fits the truth. Unfortunately, the truth the teller wants to convey and the truth the psychiatrist wants to hear are often at odds.
Read the full review here.