Silent Hill: Book of Memories Demo Impressions

The Silent Hill franchise hasn’t been doing so well recently. While I quite enjoyed it, Downpour was a critical failure, and, truthfully, the series hasn’t had a major hit since the third game. On the other hand, the series has never been more accepted in the mainstream, what with the new movie coming out, and there being clearly no shortage of game releases. Silent Hill: Book of Memories is a non-cannon Vita game being released next week. Book of Memories was supposed to have been released much closer to the release of the Vita; however, it was delayed multiple times. This is generally death for video games. Delays often mean that a game simply isn’t any good. Sometimes, developers manage to fix the problems, but more often than not, the game is released to little applause. So, how does Book of Memories fare? Based on the demo, actually pretty good.

I don’t remember hands bursting out of Macbeth, but then again, I didn’t pay too much attention to it.

Book of Memories’ gameplay differentiates itself a lot from the main Silent Hill series. Unlike the rest of the series, which is traditional survival horror fare, Book of Memories delves deeply into the dungeon crawler genre. You play a create-a-character in a top down perspective, while you bludgeon and shoot your way through hordes of iconic Silent Hill monsters. The bulk of the weapons are melee. You can combo attacks by timing your button presses in order to release a powerful finisher, and these weapons will degrade with use until they break. This requires constant weapon switching. There are items available to repair melee weapons and reload ranged weapons, so you can keep favourites around. There is a good variety of iconic Silent Hill weapons from wooden planks to pipes, and each enemy has a weakness to a specific type of weapon, which adds to the strategy.

I still feel like every enemy should be weak agains SMGs.

Like most dungeon crawlers, RPG elements are integrated. Book of Memories doesn’t push character improvement like, say Diablo 3, but it pushes it more than a pure action game. Your character will be given quests at the beginning of each level, which can be fulfilled to get special weapons. You will level up after killing enough enemies and can assign two stat points to a variety of fairly basic statistic designations such as strength or dexterity. These offer fairly minor improvements, but still are a good addition. Throughout the game you will obtain what passes for currency, which can be used in a shop to buy new weapons, skills, stat-boosing artifacts, and character customization pieces like hats and the like.

I have no idea how limited customization will be in the full game. It sure as hell has limited in the demo.

The level design is pretty good. It is extremely reminiscent of the original Diablo. Actually, the whole game feel a lot more like the original Diablo than Diablo 3, and that is a series complement. The environment is dark and foreboding with enough rust and blood to remind you of Silent Hill. However, it is unclear how much the environments will change. The demo only featured several areas in the same chapter. If the game doesn’t move to far past the one environment and relies too much on similar environments, then it will be doing itself a disservice. The dungeon, like Diablo, is randomly generated and there are different event rooms that can appear such as treasure rooms or trap rooms.

The environments are half of the charm.

The whole goal of the game is to collect puzzle pieces by completing challenges spread throughout the dungeon. These challenges can be as basic as kill all the enemies (actually, this is what most of them amount to) or kill all of the enemies without taking more than 20% damage. While these challenges do not vary too much in the demo, there is a big opportunity for improvement in the main game. When your character has picked up all of the puzzle pieces they can solve the fairly simplistic end of area puzzles, which seem to be just arranging these pieces in a particular way. These aren’t difficult by any means, but are randomly generated, so there’s that.

Blue balls mean challenges. If I thought that Silent Hill games were full of meaning, I would wonder about this one.

The story of the game is non-cannon, but that doesn’t mean much for Silent Hill, as most of the games do not relate to one another short of minor references (with obvious exception to Silent Hill 1 and 3). As it stands, your character is given a magic book for his or her birthday and the character can use that book to change their reality. While we don’t really see it, there will likely be Twilight Zone style repercussions for these changes. In the dungeon, you can pick up notes and hear television broadcasts that fill you in more about the background, and these are a nice touch. However, the story is just a barebones set up for what the game is really about.

Sure, I’ll just read my creepy book in front of my insane clown Nico Belic poster. Nothing creepy there.

There has been a lot of controversy from Silent Hill fans over the fact that this game isn’t scary and doesn’t seem to have much to do with Silent Hill in any way. I couldn’t disagree more. This game is a celebration of the series. Everything from the familiar enemies to the familiar weapons scream Silent Hill. This game is no more an abomination than Dissidia or Theatrhythm for the Final Fantasy series. It isn’t a main series Silent Hill game in any way, but it was clearly created for the fans of the series. There is a lot of detail that went into its construction and it doesn’t feel like a simple cash in, which wouldn’t be hard to do really. Seriously, I’ve played Silent Hill: Origins.

Trust me, you can get a lot of mileage out of fanservice.

As a dungeon crawler, Book of Memories is hardly ahead of the curve. The RPG elements are barebones, and it isn’t clear is the promise of more skills to be bought will change gameplay up significantly. However, the game, pure and simple, is fun to play. The Silent Hill touches make it actually pretty unique and its gothic style really calls back to when Diablo was more concerned with atmosphere than loot. Will this sense of fun be enough to justify the time and, more importantly, the price tag? That isn’t clear, but it certainly has more promise than I would have expected from such a game.

– Mistranslation for the Modern Gamer

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