Silent Hill: Book of Memories Review

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Title: Silent Hill: Book of Memories
Developer: WayForward Technology, Konami
Game Type: PlayStation Vita
Download: 1.5 GB
NA Availability: 
Digital Download | Retail

EU Availability: Digital Download | Retail
PSTV Support: No

It almost feels like this is Horror month for me.  I’ve already played and reviewed two horror titles so far and I’m playing even more horror-themed games with going forward.  You all know how the Vita doesn’t have many native horror titles at its disposal, but it does have some games with horror settings but aren’t quite Survival Horror genre games.  That is what we’re going to get into today.  Specifically, we’re going for this site’s next outing and coverage of the Silent Hill series.

The PS Vita does have a fair amount of Silent Hill games to play through, assuming you know how to play them.  Silent Hill (PS1), Origins, and Shattered Memories can all be played on the Vita by transferring the games over from a PS3.  Of course, it’s also known that Shattered Memories is no longer for sale on PSN due to some licenses expiring, likely around the music featured in the game from singer Mary Elizabeth McGlynn.

Many people know that the PS Vita has its own exclusive outing in the Silent Hill series, which is one of the most mixed-feelings games in the series.  This is due to many reasons, especially around the game’s genre.  However, let’s get past all of the complaints and see what the game is really about.  Here is my official review of the PS Vita exclusive, Silent Hill: Book of Memories!

Story

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Book of Memories revolves around a customized character, whom gets a package from Silent Hill for their birthday (delivered by the Mailman from Silent Hill: Downpour), which chronicles every event of their life.  Upon opening up the book, they are taken into a dream-like world filled with hideous monsters that they fight to get past in an attempt to change the words in the book and, therefore, their own past.

The plot in Book of Memories is shown more or less in scenes at the end of each set of levels as well as character backgrounds that are given to you as you explore the Nightmare World the game’s dream-like states are set in.  Each of these characters is pre-set and you learn a little about their backgrounds and the stress and tensions of their personal lives and what eventually happened to them upon reaching the boss of their level.

As such, the story of this game isn’t anything that’s going to draw you in and immerse you.  Your character isn’t facing their own personalized demons because this Nightmare World isn’t in the same place as it is in the other games.  The game is meant to be focused on the gameplay instead of story, though fans should enjoy the Joke Ending should they acquire it, where you will see characters from every previous game of the series.

Gameplay

Book of Memories

Book of Memories is a dungeon-crawler RPG, a large diversion from the horror genre that most of the other games use.  This is also the major reason for the criticism the game gets.  Many look down on the game with the reason of “It’s not survival horror” so if you look into this game, know that this is not a survival horror game, but a dungeon RPG with a horror setting.  If you can accept the fact that there can be a Silent Hill Dungeon RPG, then you should be all set for the rest of this review.

When you first boot up the game, you will have to make a customized character out of various preset character types.  There is customization, but the actual generic characters are preset.  Then, you can customize via accessories such as hats, glasses, headphones, and other facial enhancements.  However, one unique aspect for fans is that if you buy the Expansion Pack DLC, you can play as James Sunderland from Silent Hill 2 or Heather Mason from Silent Hill 3.  You also choose a class based on various symbols.

When you’re in the game you will be able to go through dungeons in the form of Zones.  Each Zone set has a certain element to it and there are 7 different environments you go through.  The progress has you doing through 3 Zones, then a boss based on that zone’s element, and then you move onto the next zone segments.  These also look like various Nightmare Worlds from the Silent Hill universe.  The Fire World looks like the cliché factory settings, and the Wood World is a dark forest, and so on.

The biggest thing Silent Hill fans will want to know is that this is a spin-off fan-service game for players of the series.  Every enemy you encounter comes from the series, from Silent Hill 1 all the way through Homecoming.  Every game has represented monsters and there are even Raw Shocks thrown in from Silent Hill: Shattered Memories.  A veteran of the series will recognize every single mob enemy you come across and will have a special moment when they wander into a room and are confronted by the iconic Pyramid Head.

Going through each dungeon is like navigating a maze-like dungeon with many different kinds of rooms.  You will have an overhead perspective and will be moving from room to room, encountering enemies, shops, wandering spirits, and more.  In each room, there are cabinets that can contain items, such as weapons, keys, or other items.  Weapons can range from melee weapons like knives and steel pipes to firearms like handguns.   Other items are in the form of Keys to open doors, Medical Kits to restore health, Ammo Packs to reload firearm ammunition, and Repair Kits to repair weapons.

This brings up one of the unique aspects of weapons from the game.  You will have a host of weapons known from the series but you can’t use any item forever.  Any melee weapon (or if you use a firearm with no bullets to smack enemies) has a stability rating and the more you attack enemies with it, the weaker it will get until it breaks.  That’s what Repair Kits are for, which will restore a weapon’s endurance to its full capacity.

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The biggest thing to note is that Book of Memories actually has a really deep customization and karma system.  At its base, you can level up from experience and increase your stats, which affects damage, potency of items, and other factors.  There are also Karma factors.  There are two types of enemies: Blood and Light.  Fighting Blood enemies gives you Light Karma and fighting Light enemies gives you blood Karma.  The more karma you gain gives you the ability to use Light and Blood special abilities.  You can also buy abilities in the shop to help manipulate this to get karma towards the side you want.

The biggest problem with this system is the fact that you will have no idea this system exists.  The Class Emblems don’t tell you what each class gives you before you start the game, and none of the Karma system is explained.  If you don’t research the system or figure it as you go, you’ll just be whacking around on enemies aimlessly, not aware of the customization system that’s at your disposal.

All in all, Book of Memories has a lot of content to it.  Past all 7 zone sections, you’ll be spending about 20 hours with the game.  Past this, you can exceed this further into dozens upon dozens of different zones as well as different endings that you can achieve.  If you can get into the system, there’s a lot to do, potentially up to 100 hours of gameplay, especially if you have friends and take advantage of the Co-Op Online Multiplayer that’s built into the game.

Controls

Controlling the game is a but in and out.  The main dungeon controls are easy to get used to, but you will be using the front and rear touch screens for certain things.  The customization menu, for example, is touch-only.  You also use the rear touch screen when you’re using Karma Abilities, like the Light Heal.  These are explained well, so there’s not a lot of difficulty in using these features.

Moving through a dungeon is done with the Left Analog Stick and your current aim can be moved with the right analog stick to give an alternate Twin-Stick Shooter feel.  The Square and Triangle buttons are used with attacking with equipped weapons, Circle allows you to dodge incoming attacks and the X button is used to interact with objects.  The L trigger can lock onto an enemy and the R can be held to bring up a menu to use Power Moves, like Karma Switch.

All in all, the controls aren’t hard to get used to.  Thankfully, this is one part of the game that is explained to you very well.

Presentation

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The visuals of Book of Memories look pretty decent for what it is.  You don’t see the character models close-up outside of story scenes, but when you do, the visuals look somewhere between the graphics of the PS2 and PS3 Silent Hill games.  The top-down perspective does this even better at helping the visuals look crisp and clear, from the models of the Bubble-Headed Nurse to the fiery pits of the Fire World.

The main issue with the presentation is loading.  Every time you load the game or go into a new zone, expect to be waiting quite some time.  I estimated that each loading sequence was at least 20 seconds long.  If you’re patient, no problem.  If you’re not, this will be quite an annoyance.

The last thing to note is the audio, which is one of the best elements the series has to offer.  All of the background music is chilling and fits the atmosphere really well.  Book of Memories also has two new songs from Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, Now We’re Free and Love Psalm.  If you’re a fan of her work, Love Psalm is one of my favorite of her songs to date.

Summary

Silent Hill: Book of Memories is an interesting twist on a series that is mostly dominated by Survival Horror.  On the downside, there are long load times, the story is nothing that will drag you in, and a lot of the game’s systems aren’t explained to you in the slightest bit.  If you can look past the fact that this isn’t a survival horror title, you’ll find a very interesting Silent Hill-inspired dungeon crawler. 

7/10

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