It is funny how time has changed things. There was a time, not too long ago, when Resident Evil and Silent Hill ruled the horror game marketplace. Both franchises were filled with excellent titles that were the high water mark in the survival horror genre. Today, both series are a shell of their former greatness and each new entry strays further and further from what made those series great to begin with. While Resident Evil 6 is just a bit more of a deviation towards action-horror than Resident Evil 5 was, the latest Silent Hill game, the Wayforward developed, Silent Hill: Book of Memories for the Playstation Vita is by far the most drastic the series has seen to date.
To make this easy for you Book of Memories is not a survival horror game in the traditional sense of the word. Sure, you’ll have to “survive” and it takes place in the Silent Hill universe, so there are gruesome and gory monsters to contend with, but at its core Book of Memories is a dungeon crawler. The Vita title has more in common with Diablo III than it does any previous iteration of the Silent Hill franchise. Now, to be fair, that is not necessarily a bad thing but it is also very much not what gamers have come to expect from the Silent Hill franchise.
Book of Memories has players creating a character from scratch, via some presets. There are some pretty extensive customization options, which get even deeper as the game progresses. Once created the player will receive a mysterious package containing said Book of Memories and the quest begins. While the character creation is certainly un-Silent Hill like, the feel of the opening certainly has that weird vibe that fans have come to expect from the series, however that all fades away as players enter the first zone.
The game is played from a top-down perspective and players are tasked with collecting all the clues to complete the zone ending puzzle. To collect these clues players are forced into combat situations where they must clear literal monster closets. Fans of the series will recognize many of the monsters that have to be vanquished but the combat heavy focus diminishes that Silent Hill feel. Even so, the combat is generally fun but it does come with some issues.
The two biggest of these issues are the fact that it is highly repetitive, something nearly all dungeon crawlers suffer from, and the fact that the deterioration model for the weapons seems to be on an super accelerated pace making weapon management more important than it should be. While weapon deterioration is nothing new in dungeon crawlers, Book of Memories takes it to a whole new level. Clearing one or two rooms can put weapons on the brink of breaking forcing either constant purchasing of repair items or changing of weapons, neither of which makes the game any more fun.
Whereas the combat leaves a bit to be desired, the inclusion of level ending puzzles is a nice touch. The puzzles are always off-the-wall and make hardly any sense but each level always has a helpful hint that points players in the right direction to solving it and they truly are a nice change of pace from all the hacking and whacking. It is also a nice throwback to an era of horror games where crazy puzzles were the norm, even if they do feel a touch out of place in this dungeon crawling excursion.
The biggest draw of Book of Memories is the ability to play it with other people and much like Diablo III or Torchlight II is better with friends, so is this game. I experienced no real problems while playing with others however the lack of tension and fear is even more apparent when there are other people inhabiting your play session. To be honest the game just works better as a single player title.
For fans of the Silent Hill franchise Book of Memories has a bunch of new stories, and some lore that seems to fit right in. But even with all that it doesn’t feel like a Silent Hill game. That said as a dungeon crawler it is serviceable and there are quite a few hours to be sunk into Book of Memories should one venture to do so.