I have always seen the Silent Hill franchise and never really paid it any mind. As a child, I thought that it was way too mature for me to get into; and as an adult, I have no investment in the series, so I look to other things. With the release of Silent Hill: Book of Memories on the Playstation Vita, I had a chance to jump into the series in a different way. WayForward has developed a Silent Hill game that strays from the original design philosophy of the first games; but creates a satisfying casual experience (for the most part).
In Book of Memories, you play as a man who was just given a book for his birthday. Little does this man know that the book actually has supernatural abilities. Yeah, the premise is a little strange I thought. It has bits of cheesy horror cliches in it; but you can tell that the overall delivery strives to be honest and genuine (so I give it some credit there). The game involves exploring zones to find pieces to a puzzle to be solved at the end of the level. I found it very similar to classic dungeon-crawling games like the NES’ Zelda series; the layout of the map -a bunch of rooms connected by hallways- definitely hearkens back to some of the good ol’ originals
The combat in Book of Memories is as mindless as a game can get. I’m not saying that as a bad thing – I’m just saying. It’s a typical hack-and-slash game with two buttons and a dodge button. Not much goes into planning for a battle aside from “mash the button a couple of times”. To its credit, the game does feature a weapon stamina system; I found that this imparted a little variety to the battles. Basically, the more you use your weapons, the more worn-out they become (until they break). You can pick up little wrenches that can fix your weapon, allowing your weapon to last a little bit longer1. With this system, you really have to think about how you use your weapons; this stops you from using your weapons with abandon.
“Zoinks, Scoob! This is the weirdest rotary-dial phone ever!
Graphically, the game is on par with many of the other Vita games that are out on the market right now. I am always impressed with how nice a game can look on the Vita. Monsters appear particularly scary and ominous, while the levels all feature an appropriate level of dreariness. Truthfully, I did find the levels to be a little drab in the colour department – but that’s really only due to my desire to see everything in glorious techno-colour. The cut-scenes are where the game really shines graphically, because the camera zooms in and you can see all the detail in the character models.
Overall, I’d say that Silent Hill: Book of Memories is the kind of title that can succeed on the Vita only because of the lack of other stellar titles on the Vita. Book of Memories isn’t particularly amazing, and it’s not complete garbage. It’s adequate; and on a system devoid of good games, that’s a great thing. If you don’t mind a little bit of mindless combat and a some horror archetypes in your story (and you’re dying to fire up your Vita again): Book of Memories is just the game for you. It’s easy enough to play through without frustration, and it’s polished enough to not feel like a budget title. Pick it up for your starved Vita!