So, when I first heard there was gonna be a Silent Hill game for the Playstation Vita, I was flipping out in excitement. I was all “What?! Silent Hill while commuting to work? This is gonna be awesome.” Turns out I should have done a teeny tiny bit more research before getting all excited. Silent Hill: Book of Memoriesis very different from what you’d expect from the Silent Hill series.
First of all, its not really survival horror. Silent Hill fans, please beware, this game is really nothing like any Silent Hill game before. If you’re expecting the depth, the psychological horror and atmosphere of previous Silent Hill games, then this game really isn’t for you. However if you’re willing to experience the series in a different light, give Silent Hill: Book of Memories a go.
This game is an action dungeon crawler. If you have played Diablo III before, then that’s kind of what Book of Memories is like, in view and basic gameplay. It’s angled top down, and you hack and slash your way through enemies to get to the end of the Zone (a level). The similarities stop at very basic gameplay though, as you’ll find that there are no epic equips and loot to be had, only weapons and Memory Residue (this game’s currency for the shop).
The weapons you use in Silent Hill range from knives and swords to various piece of industrial equipment like pipes, wrenches and planks of wood and different kinds of guns. There are loads of different types of weapons. I don’t actually know why there are so many, I pretty much only use two of them – cleavers and pipes. You can equip a weapon in each hand, although some weapons take two hands to wield. Also the more you use the weapon, the faster it degrades and eventually it will break unless you fix it with a Tool item. This system is so incredibly frustrating to me. I mean you find heaps of weapons lying around, so you’ll never be weaponless, but I like to use specific weapons and they don’t come about often. So when my weapons are about to break I use a Tool to fix them up, but Tools don’t come about often and they are expensive in the shop and you don’t find a lot of Memory Residue lying around. It’s like the game is stopping me from being able to play the way I want to play and that’s not very cool.
World exploration is really linear. You basically have corridors and hallways which are bland paths which lead to small rooms which have stuff in them. Only the rooms have things in them, whether its monsters to fight, objectives to meet (usually beating up groups of monsters) or things to collect. There are special rooms which vary from weapon rooms (a room with various weapons to choose from) to treasure rooms (rooms full of Memory Residue) to these weird event rooms which affect your karma.
Now this aspect of the game I’m really not sure why they added it in. You have a ‘karma’ bar which slides towards ‘chaos’ to the left or ‘light’ to the right. If you go all the way to ‘chaos’ or ‘light’ you can tap that side of the bar to activate a skill. You fill the bar by killing either ‘light’ or ‘blood’ monsters and they leave behind white or red blood puddles which you can collect to further add to your karma bar. Now, this bar fills up so, soslowly and when I maxed out the light side, the skills sucked. So I never use this karma system thing. Ever. It’s too tedious to fill, and it took me forever to figure out how to activate these skills. When you fill the bar, there’s no button or notification that pops up saying ‘Hey! Player activate you special ability!’. I just randomly tapped the screen to see if anything would happen and eventually figured out that tapping the bar activated the skill.
The objective of the whole game is pretty much to reach the end of the levels. You reach the end of the levels by collecting all the puzzle pieces and solving the puzzles at the end. You collect puzzle pieces by smashing blue orbs in certain rooms and fulfilling the requirement to get the puzzle piece. I’m pretty sure every objective is ‘kill all the monsters in the room’ in one way or another. I’ve collected a whole load of puzzle pieces, and for every single one all I’ve had to do is just kill all the monsters. Sometimes I have to do it within a time limit, most of the time it’s just make sure all of them are dead. Why have objectives in the first place if all I have to do is clear the room to get the puzzle piece? This also feels like an unneeded game mechanic. If they had more puzzles like the games in the main Silent Hill series, then I think this kind of objective system would be more crucial to the gameplay, but as it stands, it’s just kind of… there.
For each Zone there are also sub-quests given to you by a well known Silent Hill creature, Vatiel. These objectives are also pretty trivial. Kill this specific monster. Find this object. Kill this mini-boss. Nothing special. If you complete them Vatiel pops up near the end of the level and gives you a reward – usually a weapon. The sub-quests mix things up a little, but really it doesn’t add much unless you want different weapons you can’t find. Also one of the sub-quests I couldn’t actually finish because for some reason one of the items I was meant to pick up didn’t register when I picked it up. I played this level three times and it happened every single time, so I’m pretty sure it’s a bug.
You gain experience and levels in this game, but you can’t actually track your experience in the game itself, you have to stop and open the menu and look at the character page to see the xp bar. I do not know why this was designed this way. I would have liked to see my level and xp bar on the in game screen, although whenever you level up there is a neat button that pops up which says ‘level up!’ and you can press it and it takes you straight to the character page where you can distribute attribute points. Where was this button for the max karma bar special skill thing? The attributes you have a pretty standard, strength, agility, dexterity, etc. There’s a button you can press for more info on what attribute does what, but it’s so clumsy that after the first time I tried to get more info on my stats, I just never went back and I just randomly put my points in attributes to keep my stats even. Do I even use dexterity or agility? I don’t even know, I just put points into it. I don’t even see much of a change, the only change I see is when I up my strength stat, I do more damage then. That’s it.
This game also has a multiplayer aspect of it, but I didn’t get a chance to test it out because I don’t know anyone else with this game. But there are in-game pre-made voice command things like in FPS games where you can confirm or deny choices or say that’s a good or bad idea; I think it’s cool they thought of a way to communicate stuff without a microphone. Although what’s bad about this multiplayer is that it does not have the drop in / drop out system. Someone has to host the game and people join it. That just seems like a whole load of effort to me.
Okay, so moving on from the gameplay, let’s talk about the story. The very basic story that exists. So apparently, it’s your birthday and you get a delivery from a mysterious postman (if you’d played Downpour, you’ve seen this guy) and you find it’s a journal. This journal contains everything in your life so far. For some reason you think it’s a brilliant idea to see if changing what’s in the book changes what happens in real life. It works. Just, to be able to change your memories, you go into the ‘dreamworld’ which is a familiar dark and scary, rusted, industrial, monster infested place and you have to survive. That’s pretty much the gist of it. It doesn’t matter that the monsters in the game make absolutely no sense. In Silent Hill the monsters were there to represent something, that’s what made it scary. Now you’re just fighting Bubblehead Nurses and Flesh Lips cause they’re in your way of getting to the door on the other side of the room. In other words, this story is actually really shallow for a Silent Hill game, it’s kind of disappointing.
So the graphics of this game are alright. Nothing amazing, but it isn’t bad either. Someone went absolutely bonkers with the normal and specular maps in some places of this game, but that’s just me being a nitpicky game artist. You see a lotof repeating scenery in this game. It’s really generic Silent Hill darkness and rusting and red and greys without the interesting bits. All in all, the graphics aren’t bad, but it’s nothing great.
This game is really average. I think if this wasn’t even connected to the Silent Hill series, it could have been pushed to be something good for Vita. For something that isconnected to the Silent HIll series, I think they really missed the point of what made a Silent Hill game, a Silent Hill game. There was no depth, there were no real puzzles and a whole lot of gameplay features that didn’t really add to the experience at all. I absolutely think that if there was more if a story and some proper puzzles then this game would have been fantastic. Unfortunately this game falls short of both by quite a bit.
Give this game a try, but it’s a ‘rent’ or ‘borrow from someone’ kind of experience. As a full priced game I don’t think it’s worth it at all, but that is solely my opinion. If you have loads of fun after you rent/borrow it, give the game your support and purchase a copy. Otherwise, you should revisit the old Silent Hill games to push it far back into the depths of your memory.