A blank sheet of paper to Amnesiacs.
It may have been noted in the past that I get easily confused, but I just don’t know what is going on here. When starting up Silent Hill: Book of Memories, I was expecting a Silent Hill game. It makes sens as it is called Silent Hill: Book of Memories. But instead, what I got was a handheld Diablo-clone. It should also be pointed out that this was perhaps the scariest revelation in the game.
Book of Memories, by WayForward and Konami on the PS Vita, is not really hat anyone would expect. The game is a top-down dungeon crawler in a similar style to games like Diablo, with a strong emphasis on combat and very little by way of scariness. Whilst the Silent Hill games of late have perhaps not been received as well as Konami would have hoped, this title is so far off the reservation that fans of the series may well be thinking that they have entered into some kind of Silent Hill-style nightmare from which they cannot wake. But let’s not be unfair, just because it is not what we expect, doesn’t mean it is not fun to play. Besides, the Vita is in desperate need of more games, so let’s count the arrival of Book of Memories as a blessing.
The game starts out with the player setting up their avatar from a rather uninspiring selection of choices that revolve around a stereo-typical collection of outfits. The story then begins with the arrival of a book which, rather unbelievably, contains every one of the characters memories. With this comes the temptation to rewrite memories and thus the player is plunged into some top-down, dungeon-crawling action.
And action it is, as the player slowly moves from one interconnected room to the next, revealing the map as they go, they will find themselves doing more fighting than anything else. The vast majority of this combat is in melee form with the player being able to use either a quick, light attack or a slow, heavy attack. Weapons are picked up along the way and come in a variety of different forms, most of which are just your standard random objects such as planks of wood or pipes. However, they are all limited in their use as they degrade in time leaving the player constantly having to locate new ways to protect themselves from the evil entities that lurk in the darkness.
There are also ranged weapons available, which also suffer due to a relative lack of ammunition, and magic system which is powered by two different types of Karma that is dropped by enemies. It is not the best thought out mechanic as the player will have a tough time concentrating on one type of Karma due to the small screen and the inability to avoid picking up both. However, it adds another element to the game.
Besides fighting their way through the rooms and trying to find the exit to the next area, the player will be collecting puzzle pieces that are needed to solve that areas final puzzle. Once all of these are collected, the player heads towards the exit, which they will nearly always have found by that point, and generally place the pieces in the correct order. The puzzle comes in the form of a really obscure phrase that is supposed to tell you what order to place the pieces, but random placement until getting it right works as well, albeit with a less impressive finish.
The environments and creatures inhabiting them are undoubtedly inspired by the Silent Hill series, obviously so in the case of enemies such as the split-headed dogs. But it still doesn’t manage to feel like a Silent Hill game. The player just moves on from one area, after fighting everything and solving the puzzles, to the next. Along the way they will pick up cash which can be spent in the store on better weapons or a variety of other boosts, allowing further grinding through the levels.
The game also offers some co-op gameplay, both online or ad-hoc, which certainly mixes things up. It supports up to four players, but more players means more players fighting over the loot, which is never a good thing. Best played cooperatively with friends, if you can find any friends that have a copy of the game.
If you are looking for a Silent Hill game for your Sony handheld, you will likely come away from Book of Memories feeling very disappointed. But if it is dungeon-crawling that you crave, a hefty chunk of grinding through levels and the occasional puzzle to solve, then Silent Hill: Book of Memories may well be worth a look. It may not be the best example of the dungeon-crawling genre available on the Vita, but it is not far off. Just don’t be expecting anything too memorable…