Silent Hill: Book of Memories Review
Historically, handheld versions of popular console games have always suffered from technological limitations. While the console version of a title would be a gorgeous looking game with compelling gameplay, the handheld iteration would always fall short in one or more aspects. In more recent times, the handheld versions of various titles have been created as “side stories” or “spin-offs,” most of the time not even being considered as storyline canon. This provides fans with a mental back door, allowing them to dismiss a potentially inferior product as something that “doesn’t count” toward the general lore of the series. The Silent Hill series has always been creepy fun on the various consoles, so Konami has released the spin-off adventure Book of Memories for Sony’s new Vita handheld. While it can be said that the creepiness factor is automatically lost on a title that you can sit and play at a bus stop, its decent mix of survival horror and dungeon crawling do provide some addictive, horrific fun.
The first thing players will notice is that Book of Memories doesn’t really feel like a Silent Hill game. The console versions always told a survival horror story from a single player perspective. Book of Memories feels more like a hack n’ slash adventure, and also sports multiplayer co-op aspects. So, that having been said, before you jump headlong into this latest title be aware that it’s all business; killing, looting and leveling are the order of the day here. The entire travel in the game is through randomized dungeons, and sometimes it feels just a bit “Dragon’s Lair”-ish in its execution. There are plenty of 2×4 boards, lead pipes and axes to find in order to bash your way through the various hordes. These low-level weapons break easily, but they can be repaired and there is always more to find. The weapons can be leveled just like any other RPG, but here it isn’t always clear what benefits you have obtained. As your level gets higher, you will be able to find and use various augmentations and as you climb the levels you begin to earn karma skills that enable you to use magic abilities.
The title’s execution really zips along (except for the unconscionable load times) and is perfect for the short-term burst style of gameplay that handheld titles are supposed to be. There isn’t any kind of story depth going on here, and the whole game really feels like a mini-game inside a larger title. That is not to say that it isn’t addictive and fun, because it certainly is, there just isn’t anything here you’re going to remember once you are finished with the game.
Book of Memories’ presentation feels half-baked. All of the menus in the game are messy and the information you are looking for is never somewhere you would expect it to be. Just finding your experience points is more challenging than it should be, and the game also makes you quit out of your current session in order for any other players to join in. If the multiplayer was designed more toward a drop-in, drop-out style of gameplay, it would have been a significant improvement overall.
Graphically, the game looks presentable. There is nothing here that can be considered groundbreaking, but the environments are creepy enough to keep you entertained. The whole “Silent Hill” feel is missing completely, regardless of the fact that you’re beating on the requisite nurses, straight jackets and pyramid-heads. The sound effects do their job adequately enough, and add to the “gory splatter” factor.
The storyline is as bare bones as possible. Your self-created character receives a book that contains their entire life story. From there, players “rewrite” their character’s history by embarking on their mission of killing, slicing and more killing. The story unfolds in various cutscenes that, well, could have been much better. As a matter of fact, if one were to skip them entirely they would not be missing much and could still enjoy the gameplay.
Each set of levels attempts a different milieu, but there simply isn’t enough variety to make it really shine. Silent Hill: Book of Memories never commits itself (no pun intended) to being any type of game. It pulls in two directions at once and only succeeds at splitting itself down the middle, spilling its unsightly intestines all over the floor. Despite all of the bizarre design decisions, however, it does provide some solid fun as you bash your way through the hordes of psychotic, psychological enemies written into your tale. If you’re looking for a Silent Hill game or a deep RPG on your PS Vita, Book of Memories will only serve to whet your appetite for a title that will deliver.
Reviewed By: Russell Garbutt
This review is based on a digital copy of Silent Hill: Book of Memories for the PlayStation Vita provided by Konami.