Developed by Way Forwarded Technologies
Published by Konami
Played on: PS Vita
Not available on any other official device
You awake the day of your birthday, alone, in your small apartment like you always do. After a small celebration by yourself, the doorbell rings and a mailman you’ve never seen before hands you a package addressed from the town of Silent Hill. After opening the package, and finding an old book inside, you learn that the book shows every single one of your memories inside of it. Knowing that you can change your life for the better, you decide to rewrite the book, and change everything so that you get what you deserve. The only thing you have to do, fight the horrific terrors that lurk within your memories; And most importantly, don’t die.
Silent Hill: Book of Memories is a dungeon crawler spin-off of the highly praised Silent Hill franchise. Being an exclusive for the Vita, this may have been a better way to go, considering a third-person horror experience like the main games in the Silent Hill series would be hard to play on the go. The game takes place in various zones, which are labyrinths that contain multiple rooms connected by hallways. Each set of zones, which include three normal zones plus a guardian zone, which is where the boss battle takes place, have a specific theme and person involved. This person may be someone who got that job opportunity you wanted or a girl who rejected you back in college. Themes tend to revolve around different elements of the Earth (i.e. water, fire, etc.).
You start the game out by creating your character and picking their class. You get to completely mold your character from scratch and have a choice of five classes. Now these aren’t the usual classes of warrior, mage, or something else RPG related. The five classes are Goth, Prep, Rocker, Bookworm, and Jock. Nice, a bunch of stereotypical failures who have to beat the shit out of monsters to make up for their own failures. After this, you get to pick a charm. These are meant to be a permanent stat boost for your character, such as increasing their speed or strength.
Gameplay mainly revolves around exploring the different zones and eliminating monsters while finding puzzle pieces. Finding these pieces is easy and essential, since there is a puzzle at the end of each zone. You find pieces by walking into the various connected rooms and trying to locate the rooms with a blue ball in the middle, which contains the needed piece. Each level has five or six of these. To get the puzzle piece, you have to complete the challenge that the puzzle provides. Most challenges use the basic kill all the enemies in the room trial but sometimes there will be a time limit, or you can only lose a certain amount of health. These challenges will start out as minor annoyances in your way to completing the zone. For a short period of time they will prove to be fun and you will look forward to them. But after the first two hours they become incredibly hard. You will be stuck in a small room surrounded by enemies that do huge amounts of damage and can’t lose more than half your health or have to kill them all in 60 seconds or less.
This may sound easy, but there is always a catch. When they say you can’t lose more than half your health, they mean no matter how much you heal the game won’t bother keeping track. So that means if you start the challenge with full health and heal when you start to get near the halfway point of your health bar, the game will still think that you’re at the health you had before healing. And with the time limit it isn’t a game of skill because these challenges simply require you to wail on the enemy and heal occasionally because you do far more damage than they do.
Once you complete all the challenges, you find the gateway at the end of the level and have to place the pieces of the puzzle on the correct spots. The puzzles are the same variation of taking a collection of vases or glass orbs and putting them in a sequence. These puzzles are really easy and don’t take a lot of brain power. The part that will trip you up is the brightness of the different objects (because that’s frequently used in puzzles) and the horribly written clues that you may find around the level. If you’re ever stuck, just hit the lever that gives you a hint, at the cost of memory residue, which is the game’s form of currency.
After completing the zone’s challenges and solving the puzzle you will come face to face with the guardian of the level. Once again, these guardians are based off of elements of the Earth. The guardians are massive and look pretty scary, but in the end are laughably bad. These big idiots just walk around firing off the occasional attack while your character runs circles around them, landing attacks that the guardian can’t do anything about. They have powerful attacks and a lengthy health bar, but nothing to worry about to be honest.
As far as gameplay goes that’s all the game really is. Zones have many places to explore besides regular rooms and puzzle rooms. You have one save point and store per level. The store doesn’t have much other than items like health kits and ammo packs, plus accessories that can be enhanced to give you character stat boosts. The rooms that stand out are the forsaken rooms. These are rooms that hold memories abandoned by the brain they were originally apart of. What you do in these rooms affects your karma meter, which is used to make magic attacks. These rooms have no real purpose other than to add an uncanny feel to the rest of the zone.
Now the karma meter that I mentioned above is useful as you can either have blood karma, which deals massive damage to your enemies, or light karma, which deals smaller amounts of damage but heals your character or boosts their stats. Only problem is you won’t be able to use these attacks very often. The karma meter acts as a sort of balance, with you only being able to use attacks when you are on one extreme of the karma meter. Since there are only two ways to change the balance of the karma meter, one by effecting events in the forsaken rooms, and two by killing enemies, which will leave behind pools of karma that change the balance of your meter when you walk over them, this is what makes many of the game’s challenges so hard. You have to build up your karma over time, as using a karma attack will send your meter back to the center. Even if you absolutely needed to use a karma attack, you couldn’t, because you could accidentally step on the opposite karma puddle and lose some meter progress. Magic attacks are essential in later levels and locking them behind these arbitrary walls makes the game nearly impossible at times.
With all that, how is the story? The story is pieced together by your character and is affected by the notes they find and the broadcasts they hear within the zones. Other than that there are a few cut scenes that happen before and after you’ve completed a person’s set of zones. So in reality the story’s depth is affected by how many broadcasts and notes you can find scattered around the levels. Something to keep in mind is that the game uses a procedural generation mechanic that changes the layout and placement of the zones, and the many objects and rooms within them. This requires multiple playthroughs of the game to get all the notes and to hear all the broadcasts. From what I’ve played and read, it doesn’t seem as if the outcomes change whether you find all the story items or don’t find any. The story can also be affected by the actions taken in forsaken rooms and how said action and karma distinction affects the person’s memory you are trying to change.
Silent Hill: The Book of Memories biggest issue has to be how it displays the story and gameplay to the player. Silent Hill has always been known for allowing the player to find extra information on the background of the town and story of its characters, and come to their own conclusions on what the games story means. But with Silent Hill: The Book of Memories, you can’t find any information about anything. How did we meet this guy and why do we hate him? How come his zone is the fire zone? Why does his guardian battle require us to kill a massive devil looking creature? The game fails to explain any of this and it can make the experience frustrating because the player has no clue why they’re going through these great lengths to ruin the lives of other people. The game doesn’t even explain how basic mechanics work. When you pick your class at the start of the game it doesn’t tell you what that class’s ability is. How am I supposed to know that the goth is suppose to be a sponge for damage and the prep is focused on long ranged attacks. The game doesn’t even explain how the forsaken rooms work. The tutorial just says “try things out and see what happens.” Wow! Great explanation. But then again, this game says that a bundle of metal rods is an enchanted item.
Like the title, the game’s genre distinction as survival horror is there just to boost sales. The game isn’t scary in the slightest. Dungeon crawlers inherently can’t be scary because the player has incredible power and can see all around them at every moment during the game. The addition of cooperative play and how the game highly recommends you play with others along with the bare bones story makes it seem as if the game was intended to be a new multiplayer only IP that had the Silent Hill name thrown on at the last second so Konami could meet sales expectations. This is why the game becomes insanely hard in later levels. It’s meant to be played with friends so you don’t get overwhelmed by enemies. I personally don’t have many friends with a Vita. And I don’t want to make them buy this shit just so they could have helped me out. So for all of you commuters who want something to do on the train when going to work, or on that ten hour flight you’re planning to take, don’t buy this. It will become far too frustrating to be fun after the first two guardian battles when playing alone.
In the end, Silent Hill: Book of Memories is a frustrating cash grab for a handheld that could have done so much more and deserved so much more. The game does little to explain anything that goes on in the story and the basic gameplay. The fact that the game requires cooperative play to feel fair and be any fun shows how lacking the product is in meaningful content. I’ll admit, the game can be a good time waster, as it requires little attention and can be picked up and dropped in short bursts. But that doesn’t save it from being a bad game. It has almost nothing redeemable about it from is poorly explained story to it’s moronically structured gameplay.
I am giving Silent Hill: Book of Memories a 2 out of 10
Better concept for a portable device
Can’t explain anything
Boss battles are laughably easy
Puzzles are too easy and clues are worthless
Why fill your game with stereotypes?
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