You can see what Climax was going for here. It's already done away with weapons and ammo, so why not do away with combat? The fighting was usually rubbish in past Silent Hills, so most people always ended up running away from the nasties rather than fighting them - these sections are simply trying to take things one step further. The main problem is that it's not fun to be put through this kind of ordeal. Nightmare stages are intentionally confusing, but since your torch attracts the attention of your squealy pursuers, it's best to turn the damn thing off. Being in the dark makes the level even more perplexing, and while there are visual clues to where you should go, they're not amazingly helpful.
If you're properly lost, your only real option is to whip out your phone and have a look on the map, but this can be quite fiddly, especially if a freaky bugger with no face is attempting to hump you from behind. The phone controls are simple enough when things are quiet, but when you're moving quickly it's easy to select the wrong function. There you are, running for your life, and you suddenly find yourself stopping to inadvertently snap a photo of the monster who's just appeared in front of you. Thank the lord there's no Twitter functionality on Harry's phone, otherwise his page would be an endless stream of, "Am lost, and have soiled my pants again. Here's a pic."
Failure in the Nightmare bits merely resets you to the start of the sequence, but this in of itself can be pretty damn punishing. If you don’t stop to check the map it's hard to tell if you're making any headway, and to make matters worse the later stages start to use loops of identical and near-identical rooms. I know that this game has been designed to monitor player behaviour, but I'd be fascinated to know if it could tell how many times I shouted the F-word before the story reached its excellent conclusion.
The Nightmare sequences are particularly annoying for the fact that they almost spoil what is otherwise an absolute peach of a release. The first time you encounter one it's admittedly quite scary; after that you actually start to dread the arrival of the next one, because they're so infuriating that they make you wish you were playing something else. They really are that irritating, and it's a damn shame. Still, there are only six of them to get through, and as soon as you return to the "normal" game you'll forget all about them.
In other words, the Nightmare sequences don't detract that much from how bloody wonderful the rest of the game is. It looks stupendous, even in the tricky area of realistic human characters, and the audio work is first class. The voice acting is consistently top-notch, and Akira Yamaoka once again turns in a brilliantly moody score. Beyond this though, it's the sense of freshness and sheer self-confidence that makes Shattered Memories shine. This is a genuinely mature video game, one that isn't afraid to explore complex concepts or to present characters that aren't immediately straightforward. There are clear nods to films and TV shows, particularly Twin Peaks, but the story that the game tells is unquestionably its own.
Strangely, Shattered Memories feels almost closer to Heavy Rain than it does to a traditional survival horror. That may sound like a grand statement, but in terms of their willingness to defy convention the two are definitely comparable - and with regards to storytelling, there's no denying that Shattered Memories spins a far deeper, more troubling tale. It's nowhere near as action packed, but there are a couple of stand-out set pieces - particularly one involving a car - that will go down as gaming moments people chat about for years to come.
Forget about the Nightmare sequences; just sink into the ambiance, furrow your brow over the great puzzles, and marvel at the beautiful bleakness of it all. If you've been looking for something genuinely engaging to play on your Wii, your search is at an end.
VideoGamer.com Score8 Score out of 10
- Fantastic music and voice acting
- Thoroughly original
- Weaves a gripping, adult story
- Nightmare sequences may drive you to the pill cabinet