Konami has been treating its Silent Hill franchise rather indelicately as of late. With even the Silent Hill HD Collection turning out a complete mess, it’s somewhat understandable that fans were skeptical about Silent Hill: Book of Memories for the PS Vita suddenly turning away from the traditional psychological horror genre of the previous games. Even if Konami still is making weird publishing decisions regarding this game, with the demo nowhere to be seen on the North American PSN Store, I can assure you that WayForward (Contra 4, Shantae) has done their best to make Silent Hill: Book of Memories a quality experience.
Silent Hill: Book of Memories is an isometric dungeon crawler rpg with hack-and-slash elements. As odd as it may sound, the Silent Hill world actually fits in quite well with this concept, and helps set a creative twist on the otherwise quite predictable nature of most dungeon crawlers. For example, instead of choosing between a variety of races such as orcs and elves as your character, you get to choose between various high school stereotypes such as jocks, goths and preppies.
Once you’ve customized your character (I named mine Jeff) you will witness the first cutscene, where “Jeff” receives a mysterious book containing each and every memory he has ever experienced. By attempting to re-write the memories in the book your character gets flung into a rather disturbing, Silent Hill-esque dream world dungeon, filled with well-known enemies of the franchise. The whole “teenager goes to scary dungeon to battle monsters at night”-setting reminds me a lot of Persona 3’s Tartarus, but unlike Tartarus, these dungeons are smock full of treasure, weapons, stat-boosting artifacts and creepy notes for you to gather. Each stage also requires you to collect a set amount of puzzle pieces by completing certain challenges (mostly revolving around defeating enemies) in order to solve the puzzle at the end of the level, which has you solving riddles in order to figure out which piece goes where. This adds a little extra complexity to the gameplay and all the more reason to explore, as you’ll need to actually find the hidden riddle.
My biggest concern with the game, other than the rather dull background music that plagued the demo levels, was that the combat felt sluggish and, to a certain extent, boring. You can dual wield smaller weapons such as planks, knives, and guns, or bigger two-handed weapons such as pipes. All weapons wear out and break after a while, which adds some strategy to your battling. However, there are loads of weapons laying around each level, and fighting with your fists works far too easily as the combat basically just requires you to wail on your enemies until they die. Most battles feel unsatisfactory and dull as most enemies die without any specific strategy or skill needed. Considering the fact that this was just a demo, these issues may be rendered obsolete as your character levels up, learns additional abilities, and battles stronger and hopefully more diverse enemies.
All in all, Silent Hill: Book of Memories looks like a solid game with crisp and clear graphics that look great on the Vita’s 5-inch OLED screen. The game definitely has potential for being an enjoyable experience for both long-term fans and newcomers to the series as they fight their way cooperatively through the game’s eerie dungeons when the game releases on October 16 this year.
If you live in Europe, make sure to download this demo and tell us what you thought about it in the comments.