Last week a thought occurred to me – have we taken motion controls for granted? In the next few weeks I’ll be picking out two games per article as examples of how motion controls were done right on the Wii. Before getting to the most obvious genres that utilized the Wii remote’s functions, I thought we’d start with the less appreciated, and less well-known titles.
We’ve been sweet on games that use the remote as a virtual flashlight, and two games that utilize such mechanics are two of our favorites: Fragile Dreams: Farwell Ruins of the Moon and Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. As it happens, these two games share more than the use of a flashlight as a gameplay hook.
Both value atmosphere and exploration over combat. Both are more interested in the psychology of their cast of characters than in having them take part in superhuman gymnastics. Both feature standout graphical presentations on the Wii (highlighted by superb art direction), and both toe a precarious line between survival/horror and a more PG-13 brand of spookiness. How fitting, then, that both games choose to illuminate their fictitious worlds with the ever-benign companion of camping trips.
First, Fragile. The product of a partnership between Tri-Crescendo and Namco/Bandai, this is admittedly an acquired taste of a game. All things – from combat to item management – take a back seat to exploration, which is inextricably linked to a marvelous display of flashlight utilization. Admittedly, to fully enjoy this type of game, you’ve gotta love admiring the grunge on the walls of a world that has seen better days. Or, to put finer point on it, watching a character experience profound loneliness has to make you feel an affinity (not depression) in order to grok this effort. It’s like being on a sort of archaeological dig, one in which you are drawn into this broken-down version of Earth via lighting it up. The Wii remote pulls you in, intuitively connecting you in a way that I don’t think an analog stick can. But like the rest of the game’s aesthetic, it’s a subtle (albeit integral) part of the whole, and won’t resonate with everyone. For me? There are few worlds in gaming that I’d rather revisit and wander through.
Where Fragile is implicit in the reasons for the existence of its dystopia, Shattered Memories is a bit more explicit in its brand of psychological horror (its primary character is, shall we say, a bit more familiar with the disturbances in this land).
There’s also the small matter of the game mostly being without any sort of combat whatsoever; the combat in Fragile may have been rudimentary (and rightfully so, as it is not the focus of the game), but you could seek out a fight if you were so inclined. Not so in Silent Hill, where you’re pretty much stuck playing defense and running for your life when you aren’t roaming the shadows for clues. However, while the feel of the game is a bit different, the overall aim is similar. The icy setting is a canvas the developers have painted upon with the idea of it only being revealed piecemeal (it turns out that ugly wallpaper is even scarier when you can’t see it all at once) via the battery-powered torch the Wii remote’s infrared sensor mimics.
Would both of these games work with a more conventional twin stick setup? Sure. You can even go play a version of Shattered Memories on either the PS2 and PSP. You will be playing the lesser version, though. I gave the PS2 version a shot simply out of curiosity, and I very much wish I hadn’t. Put it this way: it’s like reading a scary story in a library at noon, not at home where you can fall asleep with the creeks of your home there to wake you in the early morning hours. The immediacy and connection created by having control of the flashlight in such a perfectly mimicked manner makes all the difference with this type of game. These are intensely lonely, markedly personal videogames. They could have turned into virtual snoozefests without a central hook. Instead, the Wii remote grabbed me, transported me into these worlds; it kept me interested and kept me invested in these lonely tales.
For the purpose of this article, Fragile and Silent Hill are like small, intimate indie films. They’re art house, and as such have limited appeal. Next week, I’ll dive back into a more popular genre that never fails to go the Full Bruckheimer.