|System: PS Vita|
|Dev: WayForward Technologies|
|Release: October 16, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 544p||Blood and Gore, Language, Suggestive Themes, Violence|
by Josh Engen
Before I start this review, there's something that I need to confess: There were several scenes in the first few Silent Hill titles that genuinely terrified me. Obviously, I'm risking my manly reputation by admitting this, but I'm confident that many female readers will be instantly attracted to my emotional sensitivity. (We do have female readers, right?) Either way, my point is that Konami seems to have forgotten how to make a psychological horror title.
The more recent additions to the Silent Hill series have been unmistakably tame by comparison (roughly four games, by my count). Perhaps this could be due to the fact that the Silent Hill universe has become ordinary with age, or that the psychological horror genre, which Silent Hill helped create, has a significantly larger selection of titles these days. Or maybe I've become sociopathic and disturbing imagery doesn't affect me like it probably should. Whatever the reason, the Silent Hill franchise just doesn't make me nervous like it used to.
Either way, I still have a soft spot for Pyramid Head, and find myself crossing my fingers every time a new Silent Hill title hits the shelves. But when I picked up my copy of Book of Memories, I found myself wondering if were even possible for Konami to deliver a miniaturized version of America's favorite ghost town to Sony's new portable console.
And the answer turns out to be yes. But also no.
See, this version of Silent Hill doesn't look or act like any of the pervious incarnations. Actually, it feels more like a tiny version Diablo than a Silent Hill title, and that's what makes this whole experiment difficult to gauge. I'm all for developers taking risks and making changes, but Book of Memories often feels like a game what simply had the phrase "Silent Hill" painted on the front of the package to increase sales.
The gameplay itself is smooth and intuitive. If you've ever played a dungeon-style hack-and-slash crawler, you should feel right at home. The basic order of events goes something like this: 1. Walk into a room. 2. Kill all the enemies. 3. Dig through all of the drawers for sweet loot. Each of these steps, along with the control setup, is painstakingly explained in a series of pop-up tutorials as you navigate the dungeon.
However, even though WayForward, the developer behind Book of Memories, so often over-explains much of the game, they manage to drop several oddities into your lap without explaining them at all. For instance, when you create your character for the first time, you're asked to select a charm. It's literally the very first decision that you make in the game and no explanation is given until after the selection is made. It turns out that each charm equips you with some sort of buff depending on which one you choose. Maybe I'm being overly critical, but it would have been nice to know what I was getting myself into before I chose that stupid clover.
From time to time, WayForward manages to throw in a change-up to the standard one-two-three order of events by tossing in a boss fight or a mission of some sort, but the basic structure remains pretty straightforward. However, every so often, you'll run across a "scare room" and have instant flashbacks to the dark, psychological tone that made the first three Silent Hill titles great. Several of these rooms do contain some pretty creepy imagery, but it's nothing compared to the Pyramid Head/Mannequin rape sequence that pretty much defined the second title.
Although the game has a surprising amount of depth for a portable RPG, none of that depth is found in the character creation screen. Players will only find several stereotypically named customization options when it comes time to create their characters. My character ended up wearing a shirt that said "Death Fart" and had a stylish pair of glasses. If I had to guess, I'd say that he probably played rhythm guitar in a depressing indie rock band.
The in-game customizations aren't all that more numerous, either. When the game starts, you'll probably spend a good deal of time scouring the ground for a steel pipe or a length of wood to use as a weapon, but as you polish off levels and defeat bosses, you'll get your hands on some pretty sweet loot. However, in the world of Silent Hill, monster heads do a great deal of damage to your weaponry, and unless you manage to find a repair tool in time, they'll break and disappear from your inventory. Managing your resources is one of the more difficult things about BoM. So, choosing which weapons to save and when to resort to fisticuffs is the type of decision you'll have to make regularly.
For those of you who might be arriving late to the Silent Hill party, there's no need to worry. While Book of Memories is set in Silent Hill universe, it doesn't require a robust knowledge of the back story. In fact, BoM is Konami's attempt at creating an RPG-style spin off of the Silent Hill franchise. It follows a brand new storyline and features brand new characters. It's simply set in the same universe as the previous titles, which means that Pyramid Head will show up at some point and force you to change your pants.
The storyline kicks off with your character receiving a particularly mysterious book in the mail. The package was addressed from Silent Hill, and when you crack the spine, you discover that it contains a record of your life's memories. So, like anyone would do in that situation, you grab an editor's pencil and start changing the outcome for a few of your least favorite memories. Then you hit the hay, get transported into another dimension within SH's multiverse, and when you awake, if you were successful, the changes have come true. This all seems great at first, but altering the past has consequences, as you might expect.