Developer: WayForward Technologies
Publisher: Konami Digital Entertainment
Release Date: October 16th, 2012
Available on: Playstation Vita
Traditionally a survival horror series of games, Silent Hill: Book of Memories tries something a little different for a new handheld console. Book of Memories is a non-canon mash up of all the other Silent Hill games made into an action RPG. Unfortunately, the game never really goes anywhere interesting and squanders its concept.
The game starts off with the mailman from Silent Hill: Downpour delivering a mysterious book to your character (who you can customize from a limited set of options). Upon inspecting the book your character discovers that their entire life story so far has been written inside of it. They try to change a few things, but when nothing happens they fall asleep. While asleep they’re pulled into Silent Hill and are forced to battle various monsters. If they survive and get out then whatever they wrote will happen. It’s not a bad premise and does allow for some good ideas, but it feels like the game never does much with it. At the beginning of each area you get a note that explains who’s life you’re trying to change and why. In the areas themselves you can find more notes, along with TVs, that give you some context to these story points. That said, the story pretty much just does it’s thing in the background and only is really there to provide some light context to what you’re doing and why.
It’s actually a bit of a let down, since story has always been the strongest point in any Silent Hill game. The ending you get depends on the notes you find after you defeat each area’s boss, and those notes depends on your karma level (something I will get to later). You can also find notes mid stage that change depending on if you completed the mission in that area or not. There’s a bunch of scattered pieces all over to tell a story, but it never really combines into one. It just feels like a missed opportunity.
Gameplay wise, Book of Memories has issues as well. You have the ability to equip one weapon in each hand, or a two handed weapon, and attack the various monsters of Silent Hill with them. You’ll see enemies from the original game all the way up to the recent releases. It’s a nice little treat for Silent Hill fans who can recognize the monsters from the other games. Monsters come in three main types: light, blood, or steel. If you kill a blood monster you get light karma and vice versa. Steel enemies yield no karma and are much stronger, so you need to watch out for them. Early in the game you get the option to buy an ability that lets you swap the karma of any monster on the field, meaning you can use this to build up karma in a way you want. Get enough karma of a specific type and you can spend it on special abilities to attack enemies or heal yourself. You can also get a few other abilities like charging enemies, hitting anyone around you, or doing one really strong strike that breaks your weapon in the process. These abilities use up gems that you can collect in each zone. Despite all this, the combat is still really shallow. Eventually the game would just get to a point where I’d enter a room and keep hitting square until everything was dead. You have to keep your weapons in good condition by finding and using tool kits to repair them. Yet durability eventually becomes annoying as it feels like a wooden bat and guitar have the same durability as a steel pipe and freaking Pyramid Head’s sword. You can apparently level weapons up by using them enough, but in my whole time playing I never got a single weapon to level up so the amount of effort required for this seems to be a little absurd.
Each level plays exactly the same. Your goal is collect five or six puzzle pieces, along with a puzzle note, and use them to solve the puzzle at the end of the level so you can move on to the next. The puzzles are randomized, but nearly all of them pretty much consist of you placing the puzzle pieces from lightest to darkest or from biggest to smallest and the note just tells you which way to do it. Each level also includes a quest, but most of the quests consist of killing a specific type of enemy enough times to get a special item at the end of the level. There’s a few exceptions, sometimes I had to find items and once I had to escort a dog to the end of the level, but it’s nothing that’s going to make you play the game any different. Sometimes there’s a rare chance you’ll run across a mid-level puzzle. Calling these puzzles is a bit of misuse of the word, however. All of them have three solutions tied to getting either light, neutral, or blood karma. Here’s a hint: If you ever come across one of these “puzzles” the light answer is to always just stand there and let it solve itself, while the blood answer is to go hit things with your weapon until they break. The neutral answer (of which there’s no point to getting unless you’re trophy hunting) is always to always hit things once, then just wait. I don’t know what the point of these “puzzles” were other than to take up some time though. Every area ends in a boss fight. Most of the boss fights are just bigger enemies with set attack patters, but there are a few creative ones mixed in. One boss requires you to avoid its searchlight and sneak around it’s back to attack it. Another has you rushing from pipe to pipe, trying to get some blows on the bosses hands as he reaches out and tries to grab you from the pipes. It’s a shame that it feels like these rare fights are the only time the game tries to mix things up a little.
Book of Memories offers a 4 player online co-op mode if you want to recruit some friends to help you. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to play this because really no one is playing this game. It’s a shame, I’m sure it could have helped with the tedium a little.
Graphically Book of Memories looks nice at least. Getting to see the various monsters is neat, but the locations are all extremely same looking. The soundtrack isn’t amazing, but it’s not bad either and some of the themes are rather catchy and all of them fit the game rather well. The voice acting is pretty crummy, but there’s not that much of it so it’s not a big deal. There’s really no standouts in the presentation in anyway.
Silent Hill: Book of Memories has some interesting ideas, which makes it such a shame that it doesn’t go anywhere. I love seeing Silent Hill mashed up like this and I enjoy the basic action RPG gameplay, but it doesn’t take long before the game gets slogged down by repeating the same elements over and over. It’s too bad, this could have really been something special.