The beauty of the Silent Hill series over other survivor horror series is its method of instilling fear. While other titles focus on sudden, abrupt monsters popping into view or surprisingly loud noises, it’s the atmosphere and creepy visuals that Silent Hill a nightmare inducing experience. With every Silent Hill game, I know to expect this; sadly, this was not the case with the Vita’s Silent Hill: Book of Memories. Instead, Book of Memories is a mostly compacted version of Silent Hill, where the trademark mood and atmosphere are absent and the horror is left out of survival horror.
Book of Memories starts off with a (slightly) customizable protagonist, dropped into a series of dungeons where he finds pieces of memories, none of which makes sense on its own yet but combines to give a fuller picture of the protagonist’s life. Though it’s an interesting way of presenting a story, it hardly serves to pull players in. For the most part, the voice acting is competent, with only the occasional monotone segments. Sadly, it hardly conveys the same horror of the previous games; in fact, the closest thing to horror was the occasional loud noise that popped up and surprised players. Visually, however, the game keeps up with its predecessors, using gritty textures and downright eerie creatures, in keeping up an alien atmosphere.
As expected of a portable title adapted from any console title, Book of Memories shies away from large worlds that players may explore and opts for small levels with rooms full of treasures and enemies. While it this format provides perfect pacing for a portable title, any semblance of a story is simply too broken up. Even if players want to run through the rooms, encountering story segments at a reasonable pacing, keys hidden in cabinets at the corners and ends of rooms ensure they will either run through all sides of rooms their first time through or must backtrack a second time through. To make matters worse, joining online games can often distort the story further, allowing players to jump randomly into different chapters of the story they have not yet reached.
Combat is appropriately restrictive, as in the previous Silent Hill titles. With a compact backpack and a lack of any real combat moves, players are generally left swinging randomly until a limited supply of weapons, health kits, and weapon repair kits are entirely used. This restriction isn’t so much a result of faulty programming, but intentional design. In past games, it was an effective tool in creating a creepy atmosphere with constant danger; however, the ease of this title along with multiplayer really diminishes any danger players may feel. Unfortunately, the rest of the game’s combat does not fit together too well either, giving players access to unnecessary rear touchpad controls during special moves, which have no effect on bosses and really only serve break up a level’s pacing.
While the game will have players make little choices throughout combat, such as defeating red or white enemies, which will contribute to their overall affinity, these choices often turn out to be accidental. Pinpointing the precise enemy will take some practice, which won’t be mastered until at least a couple of hours into the game, and blood puddles, which give the opposite affinity of what enemy kills offer, are usually easy to run into and will easily undo whatever kill players get. Thankfully, this hardly hurts the title’s progression and is only a nifty feature that aids (extremely) careful players.
Survival horror and Silent Hill fans looking for their favorite franchise in full form will be disappointed. A broken up pacing, weak story presentation, and a general lack of difficulty turns the game from a survival horror title to a generic action title. As that, however, it accomplishes its job and provides a medicore portable title.
Available on: Vita; Publisher: Konami; Developer: WayForward; Players: 1 – 4; Released: October 16, 2012; ESRB: Mature; MSRP: $39.99; Official Site
Note: A promotional code was provided to Denkiphile for review purposes by the publisher.