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Silent Hill Book of Memories Review

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Konami has lately been experimenting with the Silent Hill franchise; passing off Silent Hill Downpour’s development duties to VATRA Games and Silent Hill Book of Memories to WayForward Technologies. Each developer took the license and created their own takes on the Silent Hill universe to varying results. Downpour was a scary game with an intriguing premise and semi-open world but suffered from clunky combat and uneven technical design. Book of Memories for the PlayStaton Vita on the other hand is a top-down action-rpg that forgoes the franchise’s horror roots and focuses on providing a fun, multiplayer, dungeon crawling adventure that’s light on scares and story.

Read our full review of Silent Hill Book of Memories after the break.

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Book of Memories is quite the departure from the traditional Silent Hill formula.

In addition to being a dungeon crawler, Silent Hill Book of Memories differs from other games in the franchise by letting players create their own character. Players are given templates that they can customize to their hearts content including gender, hairstyle, hair color, clothing, and name. This simple setup helps players get attached to their created characters; later on in the game, players will be able to further customize their characters with purchasable clothing options.

The player’s character comes into contact with the mysteious Book of Memories, which allows people to actually change their history through rewriting sections in the book. Once the section is re-written, the player will then have to go the nightmare worlds (called zones) where he’ll have to defeat rooms full of monsters until the final battle with that zone’s boss (the character that’ll be directly affected by the history rewrite). While the boss itself is a representation of the enemy character’s psyche, most of the other monsters appear randomly and without context.

On the gameplay front, Silent Hill Book of Memories plays a lot like other portable dungeon crawlers like Eternity Warriors 2, Dungeon Hunter 3, and The Bard’s Tale. Each zone has players moving from room to room, hacking and slashing through demons in their quest to find the puzzle pieces needed to exit the zone. It can be a lot of fun especially because of the leveling system and the (occasional) cool loot drops. However, there’s a lot of backtracking that players need to do to collect each the puzzle pieces. While that might work for a console game, it doesn’t lend itself well to a portable action-rpg since most people can maybe spend about 10 to 15 minutes playing the game. I was surprised that some of the later zones actually took up to 30 minutes to complete due to constant exploration and backtracking. It doesn’t help that load times before-and-after each level are incredibly long.

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Combat is actually pretty fun and responsive. Collecting weapons and loot never gets old.

Unlike other Silent Hill games, combat is a necessity in order to survive the world of Book of Memories. Thankfully combat mechanics in Book of Memories works a lot better than the one found in Silent Hill Downpour (and some other portable dungeon crawlers for that matter). Players can dual-wield melee weapons like knives, wooden planks, and axes. There are also two-handed weapons that are a lot more powerful but are slower. Finally, players will also be able to pick up or buy firearms (which are really helpful in the later stages) which is great because there’s a lot of ammunition to be found all over the levels.

Players will need all the weapons they can find because Book of Memories has a tendency to spawn extremely powerful demons (all at the same time) especially during the challenge orb sections. These challenge sections require players to defeat all the enemies in order to collect the puzzle pieces needed to exit the level. And oh boy, these challenges can be extremely frustrating and cheap. A few times the game spawned three Insane Cancer monsters on me. These guys deal huge damage; one hit can take away half your life bar. One by itself is dangerous enough but three at the same time?! That’s just plain cheap.

You’ll be happy to know that the boss fights fare a lot better. The Guardians of each zones are deadly monsters that have to be fought in an enclosed arena. They’re huge and powerful; and it takes strategy and quick thinking/movement to defeat them. Some battles actually have multiple tiers, reminding me of the tiered boss battles found in Konami’s own Castlevania Lords of Shadow.

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The Guardian boss fights require strategy and a lot of patience.

Anyway, once I got the game’s flow (and got past the annoyingly long load times) I found that it was actually pretty fun unlocking occasional new and powerful weapons and artifacts. It was like the Diablo loot effect where I would actually go back to earlier zones regardless of the annoying backtracking just to get the extra fire blade, large cleaver, or katana that I knew would help me with the more dangerous and frustrating monsters in the later zones. It just felt like I had seen everything the game could throw at me halfway through the experience.

Unfortunately, I can’t comment on the online experience since there was absolutely no one to playing online whenever I would try to go on. It’s too bad because I feel that the game would be much better when played cooperatively with friends.

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Silent Hill Book of Memories will test your patience with frustratingly cheap enemies, traps, and challenges.

TECHNICAL PRESENTATION

GRAPHICS – For a top-down dungeon crawler, Silent Hill Book of Memories features locations and environments that are suitably detailed and convey that classic Silent Hill look. It’s not the best looking game on the PlayStation Vita, but it looks good enough and is detailed enough to be visually appealing. 

AUDIO – I can’t say enough good things about composer Dan Licht’s work on Downpour and Book of Memories. Licht managed to create music that didn’t feel out of place in Silent Hill universe; Akira Yamaoka would be proud. On the other hand, sound effects aren’t anything to write home about; it’s the stuff you hear from the older silent hill games and don’t really add anything special to the overall experience.

PROS

+ Addictive hack and slash gameplay
+ Addictive loot/artifact mechanics
+ Player customization (although a bit limited)
+ Amazing soundtrack composed by Daniel Licht
+ Replayability

CONS

– Simple/uninteresting story
– Extremely long load times for a portable title
– Cheap and oftentimes frustrating enemies
– A LOT of backtracking

FINAL THOUGHTS

I’m glad to say that WayForward Technologies delivers a pretty fun experimental Silent Hill title with Book of Memories. It features addictive hack and slash gameplay, a great loot system, and replayability. It also features a great soundtrack by composer Dan Licht, who again reminds everyone that perhaps the franchise doesn’t need Akira Yamaoka to be successful. However, if you’re a hardcore fan of the traditional Silent Hill formula, you’ll get annoyed with the repetitive and frustratingly cheap nature of the game.

In the end though, your enjoyment of Book of Memories all depends upon your expectations of a Silent Hill title.

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About janhutchings

Canadian Game Industry Blogger / Contributor for @Sonyrumors & @ShogunGamer / Communications and PR Professional. Voice of Canadian and Indie Gaming. http://jtmgames.com/

Posted on December 10, 2012, in Game Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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