Silent Hill: Book Of Memories Review
For many Silent Hill: Book Of Memories seemed doomed from the start. Rather than follow the traditional Silent Hill template of old, WayForward Technologies has instead turned the popular horror series into a four-player action RPG akin to Diablo or Torchlight.
Needless to say fans began baying for blood, and wondered why WayForward was deciding to do something so crass with their beloved franchise. While the end result is certainly not up to the standards you’d associate with the long-running franchise – at least in its early days – it’s also not quite the car crash that many were expecting.
This in part is down to WayForward clearly knowing the Silent Hill franchise inside out. While the gameplay focuses on what has always been the worst part of the series – the clunky combat – everything else is pretty much as you’d expect from spending a visit in Silent Hill’s nightmarish world.
Graphically Book Of Memories is surprisingly good, with authentic replications of the franchise’s best monsters and bosses. Creepy nurses, two-headed dogs, Pyramid Head, they’re all here and despite being miniaturised they still manage to inflict terror in you, particularly when attacking en masse. Sonically it’s superb too with a surprisingly effective soundtrack that, while not matching the sonic delights found in Silent Hill 2, leaves you under no illusion that you’re playing a Silent Hill game.
Puzzles throughout Book Of Memories are incredibly poor, requiring you to do little more than place a number of objects in a certain order.
This franchise tributes continue with the storyline, which is surprisingly dark and mature in places, but is let down by its fractured style and the fact that it’s all too easy to miss key notes. Even the items and puzzles you encounter along the way are all tied in, even if fleetingly so, showing that WayForward wasn’t as poor a choice as first thought.
The real problem with Book Of Memories isn’t the fact that WayForward has strayed away from the core gameplay elements of the Silent Hill franchise, or turned it into a four-player action RPG. No the real problem is that Silent Hill: Book Of Memories is simply a very average game.
It starts off well enough with Silent Hill: Downpour’s mysterious Postman Howard Blackwood delivering the titular book, which contains all the character’s memories. Altering them sends the player into a series or dank, many-roomed zones which are filled with deadly enemies and a puzzle that must be solved in order to progress to the next level. Said puzzle pieces are scattered across the dungeon however and are guarded by blue orbs.
Smashing the orbs unleashes a horde of monsters that must be defeated before you can earn your precious puzzle piece. Each zone also has an additional missions – ranging from retrieving objects to finding monsters – which earn you rare items and weapons if you complete them.
As you make progress through each zone, you’ll find several locked doors which can only be unlocked by keys. These keys are hidden throughout each stage, so you’ll need to search cupboards, toilets and other objects in order to find them. Luckily, flicking on your torch highlights objects which contain keys and other items and weapons, which makes your searching that little bit easier. And so it goes on until you lose the will to live.
Traps are basically a pain in the arse, often springing up when least expected. Levelling certain stats will make them easier to see though.
It’s fun for a while, particularly when teaming up with other players, but it’s not long before various annoyances begin to creep in. There’s a huge emphasis on grinding, but level progression isn’t shown on your main screen, so you’ll have to continually return to the Book Of Memories to find out how you’re actually doing.
Then there’s the fact that every weapon in the game has a certain amount of durability before it breaks. You can reverse this for a short while by using wrenches, but as you progress they become harder to come by, meaning you’ll soon run out of weapons and must beat on enemies with your puny fists.
WayForward has also introduced an interesting karma system which allows you to pull off impressive powers by tapping the back screen. Killing enemies causes them to drop pools of blood of different colours. Collecting that blood switches your karma and begins pulling it in one of two directions. It’s a nice touch and allows for a fair amount of strategy, but the cramped playing areas mean you’ll often collect the wrong blood without wanting to.
Co-op also has issues, due to WayForward not letting you drop in and out of games, which can greatly impede your progress if a player suddenly quits on you. And then there are the traps. The horrible, horrible traps which often strike without warning and do anything from rob your of your precious health, to slowing you down and making you more susceptible to enemy attacks. Worse still is the poison trap that immediately reduces you to near death.
A single hit will then kill you, sending you right back to the start of the level. If you failed to find the zone’s check point you could lose as much as half an hour of your play time, which becomes incredibly frustrating.
Add in rudimentary combat, which never evolves past the use of light and hard attacks, and some pathetically easy puzzles (implemented with poor use of the touch screen) and Book Of Memories never rises above any other average ARPG you could care to mention. It certainly has far more fan service than was first expected and the online multiplayer is nice and stable, but nothing can hide the shallow and repetitive gameplay found at Book Of Memories core.