Review by Mr Pibb
"A repetitive dungeon crawler best suited for fans of both Silent Hill and the genre"
I have been a fan of Silent Hill since the first one released on the PlayStation. The series has been hit or miss recently, so when I learned about the new SH dungeon crawler for the Vita I became very interested. Could this be the refreshing change the series needs? Needless to say, after buying a Vita the first game I purchased was Silent Hill: Book of Memories due to the fantastic PS+ making my first two game choices (Uncharted and Gravity Rush) free to play.
Unlike any other Silent Hill before it, you create your own character in BoM. The creation is more along the lines of something you'd find in a PS1 title vs. today's Skyrim level of detail. That said, it is still a cool option to have when playing any action RPG. After you go through the process you'll learn what the Book of Memories is all about, meet a charming USPS worker, and be on your way.
The story is well thought out, but you will be playing this game for the action and not because you are sitting on the edge of your seat waiting to see how it unfolds. The combat system is addictive and easy to learn, but incredibly repetitive. You will be fighting the same monsters over, and over, and over again. Sure, there are some variants, some giant bosses, and they increase in number as you get deeper into the game, but a Nurse is a Nurse is a Nurse. Except one is on fire, one can explode, and one makes you drop your health packs.
Combat is based upon a two hand system. You can dual-wield weapons that are smaller or 1 handed (crowbars, knives, etc), or you can use both hands for larger weapons (swords, pipes, axes, etc). The more you use the weapon, the higher it levels up. This increases the usefulness of it in combat. The weapons also have a durability meter which goes from green to red, use a tool kit otherwise you'll lose that beautiful Water Sword you've been holding onto for 10 stages. In addition to weapons, you have a karma meter which fills up depending on what color blood you pick up from dead enemies. Get to either side (white / red) and you will be able to use special abilities.
As you progress you can upgrade your inventory slots- something you must do ASAP in the game. At first you are given a limited amount of space to hold health packs (restores health), tool kits (restores weapon durability), ammunition for long-range firearms, and weapons. With the backpack upgrades you can hold more of these which is vital if you don't want to die, or if you want to sell the extra weapons to the shop for currency.
The game is of moderate difficulty. Even if you hold onto the best weapons and continue to use tool kits to ensure their survival, you can be hit by a cheap shot or be overrun with enemies to lead to your death. Death means nothing but starting over at the beginning of a level, which can be very annoying when levels can take 30 minutes to an hour to complete. It is a very different feeling from the rest of the Silent Hill franchise.
The graphics are well done for a first run title, especially on a handheld. The Vita is not quite at PS3 graphics levels, but this game looks beautiful in action. Enemies are well detailed, the environments look creepy (although repetitive), and there can be a lot of action going on at the same time without any noticeable slowdown. I wish there were more variants of the enemies you fight, but this is sometimes par for the course when dealing with ARPG dungeon crawlers. The levels can be rather large, which might explain the incredibly long load times (both booting the game up and loading a level).
The score helps create a Silent Hillian atmosphere, and sound effects are crisp and well rendered. The voice acting is solid, but since the story is all over the place- literally scattered through notes, TV recordings, and strange ghost scenes, it doesn't really matter either way.
I have not played this game online yet due to the difficulty of finding a game. I can imagine that the game would be very similar except with two characters on the screen fighting and with more enemies to ramp up the difficulty a touch. I could see the extra help being good for the boss battles, but the rest of the game does not really require someone to tag along.
Overall Silent Hill: Book of Memories is a decent dungeon crawler and an above average entry in the Silent Hill series. It offers a substantial amount of gameplay, but not a whole lot of depth. It's great as a Vita game since you can pause the action and resume whenever you'd like, but I would have liked to see how they could have made this style of game on the PS3 with more storage space and more powerful hardware.
Lasting Appeal: 9/10
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 01/08/13
Game Release: Silent Hill: Book of Memories (US, 10/16/12)
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