Silent Hill: Book of Memories Review for PS Vita

Silent Hill: Book of Memories Review for PS Vita

The Scariest Thing I’ve Ever Had In My Pocket

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.

Silent Hill: Book of Memories Screenshot

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.

Silent Hill: Book of Memories Screenshot

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.

Silent Hill: Book of Memories Screenshot

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.

One of the things that makes this particular version of Silent Hill unique is the fact that it incorporated a cooperative multiplayer mode as well. That might not seem like an entirely unique feature, but when you consider how the previous incarnations of SH have had a particularly introverted psychological focus, the addition of multiplayer seems to fly in the face of their established standards.

Silent Hill: Book of Memories Screenshot

But WayForward somehow manages to make it work. The gameplay stays relatively smooth via network play, and anyone who has ever played an MMO knows that playing with friends is more fun. (Shut up, Skyrim fans).

Obviously, Silent Hill: Book of Memories wasn’t created for the core group of diehard Silent Hill fans. It’s a new title with a new focus and could very well become a centerpiece of Konami’s library. But, we’ll only really be able to make that decision after we’ve seen some of the planned DLC and any potential sequels.

As it stands, Silent Hill: Book of Memories is a rock-solid, dungeon-style RPG that pays a good deal of homage to the Silent Hill universe. It’s probably not quite what the diehards would have wanted, but that doesn’t mean that it’s bad.

Besides, until a Resident Evil title shows up on the Vita, our options are pretty limited. So, we may as well enjoy what we’ve got. I know that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement, but it is the unfortunate truth.

The Vita’s graphical hardware doesn’t disappoint. 4.0 Control
Finally, a genuinely good usage of the touchscreen interface. 3.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Solid sound design, but nothing to write home about. 3.2 Play Value
Very repetitive, as RPGs tend to be. But this fact somehow feels magnified in BoM. 3.7 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • The very first Multiplayer Silent Hill – survive horrific nightmare worlds with your friends in a terrifying co-op experience.
  • Create and customize your own main character.
  • Features a legion of classic creatures from throughout Silent Hill’s history.
  • Daniel Licht (Dexter, Silent Hill: Downpour) returns to compose an all-new soundtrack.
  • Exclusive to PlayStation Vita.

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