Silent Hill: Book of Memories is a Hack and Slash RPG viewed by an isometric based camera. One thing that must be gotten out of the way first is that this is a spin off title that experiments quite a bit with the Silent Hill formula to the point of being none recognizable outside of the theme. For those expecting horror there is none to be found here. Instead we must customize our own protagonist to be either male or female as well as dress them up in one of the 5 clothing options of the game. The variety is very low and no more will be unlocked as you play. Open making our character we receive a book from a mailman that contains all of our memories written inside it’s pages. Curiosity overcomes us and we decided to change a memory where you did not receive a promotion before falling asleep.
The next thing you know you are transported into a strange dimension consisting of nothing but clusters of small rooms interconnected with each other and have also found ourself face to face with a giant, twitching monster. With nowhere to run you decid to approach the creature and it turns out it is a “messenger from god” here to inform you of his will. It is basically an optional side-quest for the Zone you are in and the will of this god can be very strange such as protecting a Shiba Inu dog throughout the level or finding objects scattered around to name a few of his tasks. The rewards are very much worth risking life and limb most of the time. His first task for you will be to find the item shop in this zone and serves as a tutorial to get you familiar with the game.
You will quickly discover that the place is infested with other monsters and these are not your friendly neighborhood Mormons. Your first foe will be the series iconic nurse that limps towards you and attempts to bash you with a crowbar Gordon Freeman style. At the start of the game you can only carry what you can hold in your hands but eventually you can buy a backpack upgrade from the store that lets you carry more weapons around. I quite liked the initial style of finding whatever rubbish weapon is laying around like a woodplank and attempting to ward of monstrous creatures with it. Weapons degrade with use so you will always be on the search for anything to help even the odds a bit and makes it more than a simple button masher. One odd thing is that you can dual wield light weapons such as knives. What makes it so weird is that it’s Silent Hill and there you are dual wielding knives like an anime.
You have three basic survival items throughout the game. A Medkit, ammo and a repair tool. The medkit restores your health whenever you please, ammo gives you another clip for your ranged weapon and repair tools are exactly what it sounds like and vital if you don’t want to break an amazing weapon. These can only be activated by using the Vita’s touchscreen which can turn out potentially life threatening when you are in a pinch and require health or ammo immediately as you try to click on the small icon to use it. This is also the most likely reason why this game is not compatible with the Playstation TV. It’s not gamebreaking but can lead to wasted supplies when you click on the wrong icon or death. You also have a handy flashlight on you with infinite charge unlike most games so you can easily see through the darkness. Some creatures do not react too well to having light shine on them and will go berserk.
The flashlight has this odd side effect of making important objects or lootable containers shine red so I never found myself turning it off due to this next feature. Keys. So many keys. Many of the doors in a Zone will be locked and require them but it feels like a completely unnecessary mechanic that adds nothing to the game. It seems every container has a key in them and if you miss one you must search throughout the entire level until you find it. Each Zone does have a single exit but in order to unlock it you must first scour the rooms in search of a glowing blue crystal that contains a puzzle piece required to exit. There can be 5 to 7 of them in a zone making it very likely you will need every key you can find. In order to collect the piece you must break the blue orb that in turn summons a horde of creatures and locks the doors for your petty vandalism. There is no escape from this room now. Either you win or you die.
Your character is no weakling and can take quite a few hits before he/she goes down. Even if your weapon breaks on you your still left with your fists which are put to very good use. Obviously you don’t want to go around punching the evil forces that roam these lands but if worst comes to worst you still have a chance to win with nothing in hand. I’ve constantly heard this title being called a Diablo clone but there is no similarities other than the camera angle so don’t go in expecting a loot filled, click fest. Positioning and range matter here. Attacks have hit detection so moving slightly out of the way means that attack will miss unlike Diablo’s luck based combat. I don’t mean this to bash Diablo just clearing it up in case you expect an ARPG instead of a Hack and Slash title. Tapping circle makes you jump back a few feet and holding circle has you guarding with the weapon on hand.
Timing it perfectly will force an enemy to become unbalanced allowing for some free attacks until it regains it’s footing. Such a move requires you to meet an attack head on instead of moving out of the way so it is definitely a risk and reward type of playstyle. Strangely for a Silent Hill game, ammo is not all that uncommon and you can usually blast your way through hordes with plenty to spare. There is one thing far more dangerous and bloody annoying than the monsters, that thing being the hidden traps. They are completely invisible unless activated and you must move fast once it triggers or lose a ton of health. That doesn’t sound that bad but the insane part is that they rearm once triggered so it will go back to being invisible and will always be a danger. This can be an absolute pain in the neck when you are fighting since most rooms are rather small and can contain multiple traps that will be the end of you.
Traps, items and creatures summoned from breaking blue orbs are randomly generated which can lead to impossible to win scenarios. One tiny room had a trap that slows you down to a crawl accompanied by a poison trap and two Butchers that take a lot of punishment as well as kill you with one or two hits. That was the only time I’ve experienced an unattainable victory so it’s not too bad for 20+ hours of play it’s just kind of a pain dealing with certain room and enemy combinations. After Zone 21 the rooms will also be randomly generated. One of the unique features of this title is the karma system. There are two important factions in this game. The Blood and the Light faction. You can gain favor from either side by killing members of their enemy and collecting their blood that splatters on the floor. Earn enough Blood or Light karma and the creatures of that faction will ignore you until they have killed their enemies in that room. It is very cool to see creatures fighting withing themselves and proves quite useful for you.
Getting enough karma with one side also allows you to cast magic. Being favored by Blood grants you magic that damages your foes while being favored by Light grants you magic to heal yourself or others. These are aimed by using the rear touchpad which is weird but not detrimental. Yet this karma system has one pretty big flaw. You gain favor by collecting blood splattered on the ground but if it is blood belonging to the faction you don’t want you have to avoid stepping on it and gaining some favor from them. The combination of small rooms, invisible traps and now having to worry about your enemies blood on the floor make navigating during a fight a real hassle. You can buy some skills from the shop such as charging an enemy, spinning your weapon around yourself and freezing enemies in place. These skills are separate from the karma meter and are instead shown as little gems under your life bar that can be regenerated by fighting. Many weapons allow you to charge them up for a heavier attack. There is a surprising amount of options available to you when it comes to combat and that is a really good thing since fighting is what you will be doing the majority of the time.
There is gold scattered around the place that allows you to buy weapons, items and accessories like hats and masks. This store is run by the Mailman which is never explained but he has a business to run being the only store in the game and you are his only customer so you can bet he will overcharge you out the wazoo for even the simplest of items. Gold is called MR in this title and you need 250 of them for a health pack. A room may contain a treasure chest that only opens once every creature in that room is dead. That treasure chest full of gold only gives you 100MR meaning that if you used a health pack you are down 150MR. The monetary system in place here is pretty terrible. There is no reason to risk your life and supplies with so little reward. The only “incentive” you have to actually explore is to find keys and the puzzle pieces time and time again. Your main source of revenue will be selling weapons. That means you will have to walk back and forth between the shop and the place you saw a weapon until you upgrade your backpack capacity to be able to carry more and save time.
As stated near the start of this review you can not buy or unlock more outfits. However you can buy a sizable amount of hats so Team Fortress 2 players rejoice. There is a DLC that adds 10 outfits and some weapons for 5 bucks if you really need more variety. This game features 4 player coop allowing you to tackle the Zones together though the community is as dead as disco meaning you will need to bring some friends along for the ride if you want to experience it. It is perfectly playable by yourself and I had to problem getting through it alone. The real reason you would want more people is to explore the Zone faster. These things are massive and beating one by yourself will take about 45 minutes give or take which is way too much for a handheld game. In order to save you have to find the save room in this massive labyrinth to further make this game feel not so ideal for on the go play. As long as you save you can go into other levels with your gear intact. It is massively helpful to return to Zone 1 when low on supplies instead of forking over the money to the greedy mailman.
Speaking of Zones, once you collect all the puzzle pieces you can go to the exit and attempt to solve a rather vague puzzle to be let through. If you solve it without pulling the lever that hands out tips you get a substantial amount of MR for your efforts. They are not difficult though if you are like me will need to look up the color scheme from violet to red. Every three Zones you complete you will face an enormous boss that will truly test your mettle so it’d be wise to stock up on gear every third Zone. These hulking beasts are rather straightforward to take down at first but you will eventually have to use brain as well as brawn to overcome them. Most of them drop amazing weapons as your grand price. The bosses look pretty cool and the very first one you’ll face looks like a Balrog from the Lord of the Rings. In fact the whole game looks extremely good for a handheld and the environmental changes every three Zones keeps it from getting stale. It does suffer from pretty long load times however. They can range from 30 to 40 seconds when loading up a Zone though that’s the only time the game requires loading.
Your character has RPG stats Vitality, Dexterity and Intelligence to name a few. What these stats actually do was a complete mystery to since nowhere in the manual or game do they explain them. As it turns out there is a tiny red circle on the upper-right of your character page that explains them. Having such an important explanation be that obscure is just plain bad game design. To further enhance your stats there are passive items called Artifacts. These can either be rewarded to you, found in a special room or purchased. Special rooms are rare rooms that can contain many things like a money vault, a ability buff roulette that grants you temporary skills like running very fast or just a supernatural room with crying children. Story in this game is told via scattered notes and your occasional static TV explaining your characters attempts to change the past using the book. It’s very easy to miss if you don’t pay attention but it is decent. Story ends on Zone 21 though there are 500 to get through if you so please. There are multiple endings as well depending on your karma align and how many side-quests you have done.
The music for this entry into Silent Hill is not composed by Akira Yamaoka sadly. In his stead we have Daniel Licht who really surprised me with how well he pulled off the feel that Silent Hill is known for. Amazing music, especially those tracks with Mary Elizabeth Mcglynn’s incredible voice. All in all Book of Memories is a decent game with one crippling flaw. You pretty much see everything there is to see within the first level making it get old extremely quickly. From start to finish it is exactly the same only you have better weapons now. I had to force myself to get to Zone 21 in order to finish the story as the boredom was quite the burden. Explore tiny room after tiny room for keys, get all the pieces in the giant maze and solve simple puzzle at the end. Rinse and repeat until Zone 500. This is definitely the type of title you should tackle in short bursts at a time as the repetition can grow unbearable. With that being said Konami does have a demo up on PSN for you to try out so if this game sounded even remotely interesting to you I would recommend that you try before you buy and if you enjoy it the full version’s 500 Zones will last you an insane amount of time.