An overwhelming cringing feeling. This was my reaction to when I first caught glimpse of what Silent Hill: Book of Memories was. Not what I had hoped it would be – what it really was. It was staring me in the face. A mockery of Silent Hill. This wasn’t Silent Hill at all… it was just plain stupid looking. It was a joke, holding onto a name that was wavering in the first place, presumably to make space to stand on, without second thought about how it might hurt its namesake even more.
Then I played it. And I liked it.
I actually like Silent Hill: Book of Memories. But not in the Silent Hill sense, but in the sense that it is actually kind of fun, and it might be exactly what the Vita needs.
See, they have guts, Konami. Releasing a game like this, on a platform like the Vita. The Vita itself is struggling, and now it has to deal with what outwardly looks like a freshly microwaved turd flapping around claiming to be content. The Vita is already in the same boat as its console brother. Trolls and more pointing and laughing, shouting “Vita has no games!”. Which is sort of true. I can only vouch for one or two games that are actually worth playing on the Vita, and I’ve had it since day one.
Playing Silent Hill: Book of Memories actually makes me feel good about the future of the Vita, though. I really want to love the Vita, and this game has given me more reason to stick to my guns.
To really appreciate Book of Memories, you have to look at it not as an entry into the Silent Hill lore, but as a celebration of all things Silent Hill. It’s meant to be silly, it’s meant to be campy, and its more of an appreciation game than anything. Starting out customizing a character was an odd feeling. Then I learned the premise. I was thrown into a nightmare world after being handed a book that can apparently change the past, but at a cost.
With gameplay that is one part Torchlight, one part Dead Island, the rest something else entirely, I ventured through pretty linear “dungeons”, killing monsters, collecting treasure, and trying out different weapons. The goal of each level is to complete the puzzle at the end. In this case collecting and organizing pieces.
On the way to collecting all of the parts, I explored each room. I used a combination of close range weapons and handguns to dispatch evil dogs and standard nurses. Weapons themselves are common, and actually vary a bit. Each weapon has a certain amount of stamina, which you can watch by monitoring the color its silhouette takes in the top left corner. When it gets too low, you need to restore it with a tool kit, or else it will break entirely. You can buy more items at shops on each level, however you can only hold one in each hand, meaning you have to choose wisely (also considering that some weapons are two-handed).
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Even the touchscreen functionality is done well. Thankfully, it has no part in the combat. Instead, you use it to manage inventory, and interact with objects in the environment. It’s refreshing to see a game that isn’t hindered by touch controls. on the Vita.
The game is in fact an RPG. You gain experience, level up, then assign points to stats. You can also collect materials that give you boosts, like charcoal. It all ends with a bona fide boss battle that took no more than simple pattern recognition to beat, but was actually a lot of fun.
After getting my fill, I sat back and thought “Wow, I’ve been waiting for something like this on my Vita”. An actual Action RPG. It is no Dead Island or Torchlight, but it is something. An Action RPG that controls well, is put together well, and is actually fun. And in this reality, some variety like this is definitely one of the things that the Vita needs most.
Silent Hill: Book of Memories will not break any records, win any awards, and probably won’t be anyone’s favorite game, but it is exactly what the Vita needs. It is a headstart in the right direction. Konami actually has me sold, and I am beyond surprised.