Genre: Horror RPG
Release Date: October 16, 2012
When you think of the Silent Hill franchise, chances are a dungeon crawling RPG isn’t what comes to mind. Which is probably why fans of the franchise were hesitant when Konami announced the top-down RPG, Silent Hill: Book of Memories, at E3 2011. Originally scheduled for the PS Vita’s launch, the title has suffered numerous delays, few updates and little by way of marketing or promotion. In fact, chances are high you haven’t even heard of this title. Which isn’t exactly a recipe for success.
Despite its dubious-sounding format, there is a lot going on in Book of Memories that remains faithful to the universe. Upon the eve of the player character’s birthday, he or she receives a book from Silent Hill with all of their memories recorded. As you fall asleep, you awaken in the dark plains of Silent Hill, discovering you are able to change your past to manipulate current events. Which is good as it is established that your life isn’t as cheery as you’d like it to be. Of course, through your adventure, you discover that your tampering may have good effect on your situation, but ill effect on others. It’s the type of quasi-monkeys paw shenanigans that feel right at home in the universe of Silent Hill.
Gameplay consists of your character awakening within a memory that contains various levels. Each level has a main mission objective, such as killing a serial killer or escorting a dog (you can’t make this up), as well as a puzzle for which pieces must be gathered and placed in the correct order. To gather puzzle pieces, you must smash blue orbs throughout the level, triggering a series of enemies which must be killed.
As a result, there is a large focus on combat. The combat is simple and not very satisfying. Various one-hand or two-handed weapons may be found through the level or purchased, with basic square and triangle attacks. Players may purchase upgraded, special attacks though none of them ever feel special or game-changing. Weapons deteriorate over time, though you may find or purchase wrenches to repair them. Despite this strong focus on combat, wrenches, powerful weapons, ammo and health packs are surprisingly scarce meaning there is a strong survival instinct within the game.
Every few levels you may also stumble across a memory room which contains a painful memory from your past. You may interact with the memory in a “light” or “dark” fashion, which ultimately has an effect on your current life situation. It’s never readily apparent what you must do in these situations, or what action will have what result, making this surprisingly psychological.
However, the problem is that while audio logs and notes throughout the levels show you the twisted moves of fate you are inflicting upon others, there is no real sense of how or why you are doing this. That is to say that the results are merely told to us and never shown, meaning that you’ll often spend a large portion of the game wondering “So what?” It’s interesting enough to hear about your handiwork, but it would have been better to see direct cause/effect.
The enemies in Silent Hill: Book of Memories are a who’s-who list of iconic Silent Hill baddies, some of them trotted out to death, such as the double-heads and the nurses. There is a lot of eerie imagery, nice use of shadow and good atmosphere, though it never rises to scary or even unnerving. The game focuses more on the disturbing than the actual horror and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Combat is uninteresting but responsive; the same of which cannot always be said for the touch controls. The game utilizes the front touch screen for inventory management, which is more than a little frustrating at times, especially mid-combat.
The game attempts to be an RPG offering in every sense, starting with character creation. You are able to choose from a variety of laughably stereotypical character types (jock, preppy, bookworm, etc.), and you are able to level up, increasing your strength, dexterity, intelligence, and so on. It’s not a bad RPG effort, but it’s not the greatest, either.
In fact, that describes the game overall: merely average. It’s not bad, but in a season packed with promising PS Vita titles, vying for your attention, it’s hard to give Silent Hill: Book of Memories a glowing recommendation. If you’re a die hard fan of the series and you’re curious about how the universe would branch into other genres, I recommend checking out the demo via PSN. If you’re looking for a Silent Hill experience to make up for Downpour, you’re not going to find it here.