Silent Hill: Book of Memories
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Release: October 16, 2012
Price: $39.99 - Available Here
There are a number of franchises out there that gamers hold close to their hearts. As such, anytime someone wants to make a change to such a beloved franchise, some of these gamers will lash out with venom and rage at these changes. Such was the case with Konami’s latest spin-off game in the Silent Hill franchise, Silent Hill: Book of Memories. Konami has described the title as a “co-operative multiplayer action RPG” which is quite a departure from what most fans are used to. Now is this departure successful for the company? Let’s find out.
When you begin your game you are given a choice of creating a male or female character. After creation, you find your character living in a rather standard apartment just before they receive a package from Silent Hill Downpours’ Howard the Mailman. In this package you find a strange looking book that appears to be very old.
As you read through this book, your character realizes that many events from your life are detailed in the book in great detail. Now what would happen if you were to go back and change what is written in the book? Well it turns out doing so pulls the player into a nightmarish realm where actions made within the realm can affect the real world.
The storyline for Silent Hill: Book of Memories is rather intriguing at first, but ultimately a bit bland as far as development or even twists go. There are a few different endings which can be obtained though, so there is a decent amount of replay value within the many stages of the Book of Memories, though you may not want to venture down the rabbit hole many times as I will mention momentarily.
Surprisingly, Silent Hill: Book of Memories is a gorgeous title on the PlayStation Vita, especially during the game’s few cutscenes. The characters you play as can be customized enough that you will be hard pressed to find another player using the same exact design as yours, while the environments fit the Silent Hill theme nicely with there being a decent amount of variety in the appearance of the dungeons you explore.
One thing worth noting, especially for fans of the Silent Hill franchise, is how gorgeous the monsters are presented in the game. While the camera angle may not provide the best look at some of these creatures, fans will be able to pick out the numerous monsters used from the Silent Hill franchise as they take them on. That being said, the game has some absolutely terrible load times for a portable game, with a few load times being as long as a minute.
Konami has tried to do a decent job with voicing the few characters present in the Book of Memories, though the voice work is hit and miss at best, with in-game dialogue usually sounding alright and considering the only way to communicate with each other is through canned expressions you may hear these a lot during multiplayer, while anything presented in a cut-scene is usually of lower quality.
That being said, Book of Memories does a great job presenting a spooky atmosphere through creepy noises and sound effects. As you battle against nightmarish creatures they’ll cry out when killed and make other noises as you fight against them, making battles against larger groups of enemies an interesting affair.
Interestingly enough, Silent Hill: Book of Memories is at its heart a dungeon crawling hack and slash title. Every stage that a player enters is made up of a number of rooms that are connected to one another in a maze-like design. There are various rooms in each stage which serve as a shop, a save room, a treasure room, Karma rooms which have vague puzzles in them and more.
However you will mostly encounter rooms full of monsters or various “challenge orbs” which will provide a challenge against enemies that appear. These challenges must be completed as they will provide a puzzle piece, of which there can be up to six pieces or more, that have to be collected and then used to solve a puzzle that will allow them to exit and finish a stage. These ending puzzles are usually very basic, involving arranging items in a certain order that players can find a hint for in the stage itself.
Killing various enemies of course requires combat and in Book of Memories fighting is a rather standard thing. Players need to simply push the attack button for either their left or right hand and it will use the weapon in the chosen hand. In the case of two-handed weaponry, either attack button will suffice. Players can block or dodge in combat, but the animations for doing so are rather rigid and slow to activate, meaning you will take damage more often than not.
Book of Memories features a weapon durability system which serves to make combat more difficult as you will need to monitor the quality of your weapon to avoid it shattering in a desperate battle. These weapons can be repaired by using a wrench, one of a few consumable items in the game, but they still become damaged very quickly. Even rarer weapons can become useless very fast thanks to the low durability of every weapon in the game.
It is worth noting that thanks to the PlayStation Vita’s touch control scheme, players will be able to pick up things, switch weapons, use items and more perform various other things with a simple touch of the screen. This system works quite well and in fact, the player can also use special “Karma” powers via the rear touch pad.
Now Karma is a meter that slides towards either “Blood” or “Light” and picking up the ashes of defeated enemies will swing your Karma meter in one way or the other. There are a number of different benefits from having a Karma bar closer to one end of the spectrum; such as dealing more damage to enemies on the other side as well as performing various spells. Light magic drains the health from enemies, applying it to either the player and at higher levels, the whole team, while Blood magic unleashes high damaging attacks on enemies, all through the use of the rear touch pad.
Now earlier I mentioned that players may be hesitant to enter the game more than once and there is a good reason for that. The level design in Book of Memories is absolutely terrible. While it is nice how each place is similar to a maze and each level has a different layout, there are absolutely no shortcuts or rooms connected to more than two other doors. This means that you will be doing a ridiculous amount of backtracking and the only way to save is to find one of the randomly placed save levels. If you were to die without reaching the save room, you will have to start the entire level over again and in later stages that can take up to forty-five minutes to complete, mostly thanks to constant backtracking, this is absolutely brutal.
It is worth noting that at earlier levels Book of Memories may appear relatively easy, however the difficulty quickly ramps up, forcing players to return to older stages and grind for money that can be used on storage upgrades or stronger weapons and grind XP for level ups. This wouldn’t be too much of an issue if it wasn’t for the numerous traps hidden in later stages, such as a slowdown trap which cripples every action the player makes, leaving them a prime target for murder. This is only one of the many ways that Konami appears to have added instant-kill areas, padding the game’s length on-top of the incessant backtracking.
Now a few of these issues are relived in the game’s multiplayer mode. In Book of Memories players can venture into a stage with three other people and fighting enemies always seems easier with a team of four. It also helps that the immediate failure upon death is removed when playing with multiple people, as a death will simply result in the player dropping all held items. The multiplayer worked quite well and I actually experienced almost no lag with the various teams I fought with.
Despite its drawbacks, Silent Hill: Book of Memories is an absolute joy to play. Whenever you are with a large group of people or experiencing one of the better designed levels, there are signs of a brilliant game here. In fact, the game is Silent Hill fan service at its best as it features multiple enemies throughout the series, buffing items which used to be collected for puzzles in past games and more. However it is held back by some by terribly high levels of backtracking and cheap artificial difficulty.
So just like many things in the Silent Hill world, Book of Memories is a great dungeon crawling experience, twisted by questionable design into something that may infuriate more players than make them enjoy their time with it.