The Silent Hill franchise is best known for tormenting players with an assortment of psychological terrors and nightmarish enemies. WayForward Technologies Silent Hill: Book of Memories is quite a departure from the long-running Konami series, but no one would’ve predicted it to be transformed into a four-player dungeon crawler.
For the first time in the series, Book of Memories features a basic character customization option, allowing you to select your gender and equip items such as clothes, hair styles, etc. Story-wise, the game focuses on the Book of Memories; a cryptic tome that is delivered to you on your birthday from an occupant within Silent Hill. This book contains the reader’s entire history up to that point. Similar to the Butterfly Effect theory, the reader has the ability to alter their history by rewriting the pages – thus affecting the past of others as well. Despite not being an orthodox entry, the story does stay true to the Silent Hill mythos.
Gameplay takes place within different isometric zones that range in appearance. Players familiar with the series will recognize the hellish, industrial Otherworld; you’ll eventually venture into wooded areas, a direful church, and other creepy locales. Completing a level, and in turn altering a memory, means moving between rooms while defeating any monstrosities in your path and solving its puzzle at the end. In order to do so, you must first collect various riddle pieces by locating rooms with Challenge Orbs. You’ll face off against some of Silent Hill’s iconic freaks, from Nurses, Mannequin Monsters, Butchers, Valtiels and even the infamous Pyramid Head. While each room’s challenge varies, the formula remains the same throughout as you’re mainly just killing enemies and grinding your way through each zone. Each zone also has additional missions – ranging from retrieving objects to locating enemies – which earn you rare items and weapons upon completion.
Rooms are full with an abundant of weapons – both melee weapons (knives, bottles, pipes, etc.) and ranged weapons (guns, a flamethrower, etc.). On top of the standard selection, beating bosses will earn you elemental weapons. Similar to Shattered Memories, your weapons can only take so much punishment before they fall apart or need to be repaired with repair kits. Players will find a generous amount of these kits in the beginning, but the later levels prove to be challenging due to the lack of ammo and repair kits. While frustrating at first, this system adds a strategic element to the gameplay, forcing you to equip your character wisely and monitor your weapon usage in order to survive.
The overall controls are responsive and mimic previous Silent Hill titles, with shoulder buttons used to aim, square/triangle for melee weapons, and X being your ‘action’ command. Picking up items using the touchscreen becomes a cumbersome experience but its implementation for the inventory system is great. With the ease of tapping the icons, players can heal themselves, repair weapons, or select a new weapon from their backpack. Visually the graphics are decent but could’ve easily been pulled off on the PSP. Sound-wise the voice cast is tolerable, though atmospheric music enhances the mood, and the noises that emanate from the inhabitants have been updated.
Easily the most significant aspect in Book of Memories’ basic gameplay is the Karma system. Each enemy is assigned a type, either Blood or Light, which when defeated drop pools of blood aligned to either of these forces. Collecting these puddles will boost your Karma Meter for either the Blood or Light side, allowing you to unleash special powers when unlocked. There’s three for each side in total: Light focuses on healing your character, while Blood focuses on inflicting damage. Your karma alignment slightly affects certain events in the story, but you don’t have direct control over its outcome, nor does the game tell you how your actions affect it. Similar to previous entries, replaying the game is encouraged to unlock multiple endings.
It wouldn’t be a dungeon crawler without grinding, and you won’t survive the later levels without stocking up on experience, weapons, Memory Residue, and upgrading your backpack inventory system. Silent Hill: Book of Memories does offer multiplayer and playing with friends will soften the strain of battling foes on your own. Hopping online or playing over ad-hoc is easy and satisfying – adding a layer of extra challenge. The downside is that there’s no drop-in/drop-out multiplayer option, and when you quit out a multiplayer match or a single-player game, you’ll lose your progress in a given level.
The concept behind Silent Hill: Book of Memories may be considered blasphemy to fans of the series but it is a relatively solid dungeon crawler. Despite ditching the survival horror aspect, it still manages to retain some of the good things about the series but when compared to A+ titles like Diablo and Torchlight, Book Of Memories comes up way short.
Release Date: October 16, 2012 • Publisher: Konami • Developer: WayForward Technologies • Genre: Adventure • Multiplayer: 2-4 players • Achievements: Moderate • Cost: $39.99 • Replay Value: Moderate