Book of Memories or a Book of Nightmares?
Game: Silent Hill: Book of Memories
Developer: WayForward Technologies
For fans of the Silent Hill series, this latest installment to the long-running franchise may come as a bit of surprise when you first experience, Silent Hill: Book of Memories due to its differential change compared to previous iterations that have been released over the series long running timeframe.
The Silent Hill series is known for its eerie and creepy environments coupled with a chilling soundtrack and sound effects, but this title in the franchise has taken a different route compared to its predecessors. Silent Hill: Book of Memories sees you playing in a world that is written and its choices are down to you. Your first task when starting is to create a character which unfortunately, can only be described as a mediocre amount of options. Hair type, face shape, male or female etc is basically the gist of what you have at your disposal, but in all honesty, it’s not a major problem since this wont effect your gameplay experience in any major way.
This time round, the series takes a single-player campaign with an added co-op multiplayer experience in the form of an action RPG
The game then starts with a cutscene and a mysterious book being delivered to your room. In the book it reveals everything, like memories for example, that has happened in your life story up to the present day. With the book, you then can change the course of your life journey and alter what happens from within the game, changing and rewriting your own history through your dreams.
For fans of the series that are expecting more of the same, Book of Memories will come as a huge shock as the game is a totally different take on the Silent Hill series. This time around, the series takes a single-player campaign with an added co-op multiplayer experience in the form of an action RPG. The game has a different camera level compared to what we have grown used to in the series in the past, with a new topdown isometric view as the games main viewing angle. Whilst it’s clear that developer, WayForward wanted to go down a different route by implementing a new style of both gameplay and feel, this new isometric view unfortunately makes this installment in the Silent Hill series feel detached from the previous iterations that many have grown fond of. At times, I had to ask myself why the decision was made to change the look and feel of the series and why the series name is even attached to the game itself as it just didn’t feel like part of the Silent Hill brand at all. It’s that different and something that I just didn’t expect.
Silent Hill: Book of Memories is all about upgrading and improving your character along his quest to deal with the supernatural forces in the game. Exploring each room inside each level will give you the tools and keys needed to further your progress and upgrade your abilities. One of the main focuses in the Book of Memories is the upgrading side of things like any other RPG is famous for. If it’s not about upgrading your weapon or finding artifacts that can level-up your strength or vitality for example, it can be about giving your character a stat boost in the areas you so choose or gaining experience points across your whole characters roster. Hats off to WayForward for the amount of depth that they have included in this title as there are hours and hours of content and adjustments at your disposal for you to sink your teeth into if you have the time to throw at the game.
On the right hand side of the Vita’s screen is a backpack that stores all your collected items that you’ve acquired along the way including weapons, ammo and health packs, while on the left side of the screen is a map and acquired items that includes keys (for unlocking locked areas) and puzzle pieces which help you completed a puzzle at the end of each of the games zones. Your character within Book of Memories is controlled using the right stick only and is not used for turning the camera in a different direction due to the games ‘fixed camera’ position. Attacking enemies is a simple affair but works within the context of the game with both square and triangle being used as the action buttons, circle to block and by holding L1, your character locks on to an enemy to strafe and attack when the time is right.
Combat within Silent Hill: Book of Memories is simplistic and at times can become repetitive due to the overall feel and animations of the enemies that attack. Also included in the combat side of the game is the ability to use ‘Timed Hits’ to your advantage. By pressing either the square or triangle button just as your previous attack hits, a timed hit will take place. Keep this going to achieve combos which in turn will give you the ability of using an ‘Execution and Massacre’ attack which can be used by pressing the x button and in turn, annihilating your enemies with karma. Like I’ve mentioned above, combat can feel a little stale at times but by using the timed hits, at least it adds a bit more variety to it all.
The PlayStation Vita is a powerful piece of hardware but it seems like the developer missed a trick here with the combat and the overall feel of the game feeling dated and rushed. Graphically at times it looks pleasant enough with lighting showing what the Vita is capable of but for the most part, the design of the game with its overall look is not pushing the Vita to what it’s capable of. Yes, it has its moments but when you compare it graphically to some of the AAA titles that have been released on the Vita that look beautiful and original, this falls short in a big way. Graphically, this features some nice lighting at times, but the overall feeling is that it generally gives off the look of a mobile title and not something that has been released on a powerful gaming handheld like the PlayStation Vita.
Each weapon that you collect throughout your time in the game, has an amount of durability that it can withstand before it becomes weak and needs repairing
While Silent Hill: Book of Memories uses the PS Vita’s touchscreen throughout the game, it’s so limited I actually forget at times that the Vita was a touchscreen enabled device while playing this. Its THAT basic. The PlayStation Vita is a device that gives developers so many options when developing with the touchscreen and back touchpad in mind and many have shown us exactly what can be done but unfortunately, WayForward have really missed a trick here which is a big, big shame.
One great addition within Silent Hill: Book of Memories is what the developer is calling ‘Weapon Durability.’ What this entails is that each weapon that you collect throughout your time in the game, has an amount of durability that it can withstand before it becomes weak and needs repairing. The more times you use a weapon, the quicker the weapon will be depleted and in need of fixing which can be done in-game. This is a great feature that many other titles should look at implementing as it means it keeps the gameplay fresh and new. It adds a slice of strategy and makes you think about your next move more than just giving it the big ‘rush and gun’ approach.
Silent Hill: Book of Memories also features a shop where you can buy new items and also sell off any that you have acquired along the way to give you the funds to upgrade in various other parts if you need to.
The game also includes, and for the first time in the series, co-op and online multiplayer modes that will support up to 4 players. This will add an extra layer to the experience and hopefully one that will help the game feel original and new, but unfortunately due to the style and complete difference from previous installments in the way the game plays out and what the series is famous for, it will be interesting to see how players react to this new mode. It works well enough but due to the repetitive nature of the gameplay itself, it could become slightly tiresome after a long playtest.
While it’s an interesting route to take the series down, taking the series away from its familiarity that the Silent Hill series is famous for is a very risky strategy and unfortunately, it doesn’t pay off. Yes, it has some bright new additions and there is quite a bit of depth involved but it becomes far too repetitive and stale far too quickly and for the most part, Silent Hill: Book of Memories feels like it’s completely detached from the series altogether. Added to the fact that the structure is poor, this is a title that should have pushed the PS Vita’s touchscreen and hardware capabilities to the limit but unfortunately, it failed to do so.