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Silent Hill: Book of Memories (Vita) artwork

Silent Hill: Book of Memories (Vita) review

"An unpleasant remembrance"

Silent Hill: Book of Memories (Vita) image

I've stopped holding out hope that the Silent Hill series will return to grace. I have finally realized that the fantastic moments I've spent delving into shadowy labyrinths whilst outrunning hellish nurses, demonic children, and mutant dogs are over. No longer will there tense chases in tight hallways with Pyramid Head, or the constant dread that I've nearly depleted my supply of healing items, or the wondrous and terrible visages of massive hulks and incongruous sculptures of flesh that populate the titular city. They've given way to broken action titles, combat-free escapades, and even a dungeon crawler. I'll admit, though, that an action RPG bearing the Silent Hill moniker sounded tempting when I discovered it. I knew it wouldn't scare me, but figured that it could at least serve as a decent thrill.

Silent Hill: Book of Memories doesn't kick off with much promise, unfortunately. It ushers you into a character creation mode, allowing you to craft your own twenty-something, complete with idiotic MTV-generation class like "rocker" or "goth." From there, it initiates a puerile, un-Silent Hill-ish storyline. The protagonist obtains a peculiar book and discovers that he can use it to alter reality, mostly through changing the lives of others. You'd think that, this being a Silent Hill game, he'd use it to some psychologically horrifying or thought-provoking end. Rather, he utilizes it to get a girlfriend...

Silent Hill: Book of Memories (Vita) image

Is this what the once mighty series has finally reduced itself to? We've gone from stories that reveal the hideousness of human nature to a narrative befitting of Halloween issue of the magazine "Seventeen"? Granted, the protagonist doesn't exactly use the book for noble purposes, but still, you'd think the writers could imagine something a little more mature, and not this wanna-be "Twilight" garbage.

Hm...Twilent Hill. Heh heh, I'm soooo calling this game by that name from now on.

As you can imagine, I eventually stopped paying close attention to the story. I skimmed the myriad scrawled notes found throughout the campaign, just to get the gist of what the protagonist was attempting to accomplish. The only time I actually that found the story interesting enough for me to pay attention was during the closing cutscene--in other words: way too little, far too late.

The rest of the game is not a total loss, although it is your standard fare dungeon crawler with trappings of the Silent Hill franchise. The rules should be familiar to most players: you enter a room, scour it for items (some of which hang out inside of furniture), mash the attack button until all local goons are deceased, and sometimes collect a monetary reward.

Silent Hill: Book of Memories (Vita) image

As each beast keels over, it leaves behind either a red or white pile of ash. Collecting these adds to a balance meter at the top of the screen, with either side signifying "blood" or "holy," respectively. Once you've moved the meter far enough to one side, you can initiate a spell infused with its corresponding element. For instance, securing enough holy ash allows you to execute an HP drain attack, which you can control using the Vita's back touch screen. Conversely, blood points grant you access to a similar spell with elevated HP sapping capabilities, but it doesn't heal you the process.

Once you've completed a room, you can then shuffle through a door of your choice, mosey on down the hall, and begin the process anew. Occasionally you'll end up in a special room, such as a shop, a save point, or a chamber stocked with cash, weapons, or an artifact (read: armor).

Although there are plenty of fantastic games that utilize a similar formula, Book of Memories doesn't make the most of the dungeon crawler setup. For starters, every level is more or less the same. Sure, each one is procedurally generated, but you run afoul of the same obstacles, visit familiar rooms, and eventually form a tiresome routine. The difference from one dungeon to the next is the presence of particular enemies from various Silent Hill games (e.g. nurses, needlers, Pyramid Head, cancers, etc.) and a multitude of traps.

As the game advances, it grows quite difficult on top of being repetitive. Your adversaries step up their games later on, nailing you with punishing blows that render the trite button mash method obsolete. You can try blocking, but doing so doesn't cancel damage and still leaves you susceptible to further beatings once you release the block button. You could attempt to execute a dodge maneuver, except that your evasive techniques are not capable of putting enough distance between you and your foes. Your only other course of action is to run away, as you would in any other survival horror title.

Silent Hill: Book of Memories (Vita) image

Think about that now: Book of Memories features combat similar to a survival horror game, where fleeing is often necessary for staying alive. However, you need to defeat your foes in order to level up, mainly so you'll be powerful enough to fell the next boss. Once again, Book of Memories proves the point that survival horror and role-playing elements are not friends. The two could get along in certain situations, but as with many other such fusions, their elements are at odds with each other in Book of Memories.

This issue is not only true about the combat, either. One of the more enjoyable aspects of dungeon crawling is making off with a full bag of loot, selling it, and purchasing an improved set of equipment. There are plenty of items to loot in Book of Memories, but you'll need every last bit you snag. Weapons, for example, break after so many uses, which leaves you either searching for a new wooden plank or flamethrower or using a repair kit. Nearly everything else you locate, from ammo to medkits to laser guns, is invaluable, so hawking your swag is pretty much out the question.

Before the campaign is even halfway over, Book of Memories shows off a few more methods for upping the difficult factor, mostly through cheap little annoyances. For instance, wherever you go, there will be traps on the floor that trigger as you walk on them. Some are beneficial, like the immunity trap, but most are detrimental, such as the poison trap. This puppy is the worst, as it temporarily reduces your HP to zero. Weather the time limit and you'll receive all of your lost HP, but suffer even a minute shot and you'll perish. Worse, if your intelligence isn't high enough, then you won't be able to see any traps, including poisonous ones. So if you've decided to go with a high strength, low intelligence character, then prepare to die many times over once you reach the middle of the campaign.

Silent Hill: Book of Memories is not the fresh take that it should be. Rather than invigorating its brand, it serves to further remind us that Silent Hill has fallen from grace. I'm not saying this because Book of Memories is a bad game, but because it simply isn't a good one. What happened to series that once regarded as the future of horror gaming? Why have we gone from creepy, foggy streets full of mangled monstrosities to dungeon crawlers, broken combat-oriented titles, and... well... The Room? I don't think what Silent Hill needs is an experimental phase or a reinvention. Call me a gaming codger, but what I think it needs is a return to form, or at very least a consistent development team who knows how to handle horror games.


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (October 19, 2014)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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EmP posted October 21, 2014:

I couldn't stomach this game. I got it more or less on release, and it sat, for about a year, in its shrink wrap while I gathered the urge to play it. I didn't last an hour. God, I hated what it had all become; the awful (great phrase: MTV-gen class) character creation is such a bizarre way for the series to go, but I made my uber-nerd, dropped into the dungeon and clumsily wailed at a few nurses before realising that, screw this noise, I was potentially only seconds away from playing more Wipeout.

I'm standing by my post SH: Downpour pledge of being done with the series. Screw you, P.T; you'll not drag me back.


So, I liked the review. The MTV line, as mentioned, was killer and managed to put my thoughts into words so much better than I've been able to. You also voiced my theory on the developers. It's easy to hate on stuff post Team Silent, but they've almost all been rookie dev teams who have rarely had more than a couple of pops at the series before being shuffled on. And now they've roped in Hideo. Urgh.

I guess we'll see. Fine work on this, though
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JoeTheDestroyer posted October 22, 2014:

Thank you! You're not missing anything. It's a repetitive slog that only becomes more difficult and never more interesting. I'm glad you liked the MTV comparison. It was the first thing that came to mind when I saw the characters.

As for the rest of the series, I'm going to stick around, only so I have more games to review for the coming Octobers. I'm not looking forward to Shattered Memory or Downpour, if I ever get to them. PT at least seems kind of promising, despite the fact that I'm wary of Hideo Kojima.
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EmP posted October 22, 2014:

I always thought I'd give it the chance to surprise me in the vague hopes that it was purposefully pedestrian at the start. Like, you get this magic book and you use it for fairly mundane crap at first before being slowly dragged down into The Monkey Paw/Deathnote-esque shenanigans. Then I remembered Downpour and decided I was giving them far too much credit.

Most people tend to like Shattered Memories more than I. People who claim to like Downpour are now all dead to me.
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JoeTheDestroyer posted October 27, 2014:

There are people who claim to like Downpour? Aside from a few young whippersnappers who consider the original game crappy, I've only heard that Downpour is a huge pile of suck.
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JoeTheDestroyer posted October 27, 2014:

I have heard mixed things about Shattered Memories, but based on what I've read about the game, I'm sure I won't like it much. I'm still willing to give it a fair shot, though.

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