Silent Hill: Book of Memories - Staff Review  

Finding a Way Forward
by Michael "Wheels" Apps

Silent Hill: Book of
Less than 20 hours
+ Combat captures the spirit of survival horror
+ Tons of post-game content
+ Great audio and visual style
- Can get repetitive
- Shallow story
- Some systems not explained well
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   Silent Hill: Book of Memories is a dungeon crawling spin-off of the long running survival horror franchise. Typically these types of spin-offs will simply copy freely from Diablo and simply apply the franchise's style to that formula, but thankfully Book of Memories instead takes a different route. Pulling elements of roguelikes along with hack and slash combat, Book of Memories manages to maintain the survival element of survival horror games. This, however, also leads to some repetition and story issues.

    Book of Memories starts with a simple premise. The player character is given a mysterious book on his/her birthday which contains peoples' memories. The character soon finds he/she can rewrite their life using the book which then translates to traversing through several dungeon levels to complete the feat. This turns out to be the only direct storytelling in the entire game. For the remainder the player will discover notes talking about the person whose memories are being changed and an occasional audio clip from a TV that includes a snippet of the person in question talking or people talking about them. It's an interesting way to tell a story that turns out to work well for the most part. However, even with a satisfying ending to the story there just never seems to be enough notes to find to give things the proper depth.

    Thankfully there is plenty of depth to the gameplay. Players create a character, choosing one of various high school themed classes, and then jump right into dungeon crawling. The classes don't change much other than bonuses to various attributes. The main campaign has the player going through various dungeon levels, searching for five to eight puzzle pieces that will allow them to advance to the next level. Dungeons are randomly generated and set up in a similar fashion to roguelikes with a number of rooms connected via hallways; the hallways are free of monsters while the rooms are not. The two main types of rooms are regular monster-filled rooms and puzzle piece rooms. Puzzle piece rooms require killing a number of monsters often with extra conditions, but the challenges can be activated at the player's leisure making these nice safe rooms. Other than that there is one shop room per level and some random treasure rooms.

Flamethrowers are just the
                                        bees knees. Flamethrowers are just the bees knees.

   Combat is a simple hack and slash affair with some notable twists, including various types of guns and dual wielding. Be it ranged or close range weapons, they all have limited numbers of uses. Weapons slowly lose durability and ranged weapons have limited ammo. Ammo and repair kits are available, but unless one has a plentiful amount of money, careful use of ammo and repair kits is required, giving the game a feel similar to classic survival horror titles. At the same time, once the player expands his/her backpack space it becomes easy to stash powerful weapons that are in a damaged state so players are never really at risk of losing rare weapons. The player can only carry a small number of weapons at a time even with the backpack upgraded to the max. With no other items to collect other than health packs, ammo and repair kits, and some stat boosting artifacts, loot is not an element of the game. Still, the combat is weighty and fun, and ammo and durability management captures the spirit of survival horror games. Instead of just bashing through every group of monsters, players need to carefully make use of resources.

    The monsters are aggressive with a variety of different attacks and defenses. They come in three different types: blood, light, and steel. Killing enemies of either blood or light and retrieving their memories moves a karma meter one way or the other. As the meter gets closer to full in either direction, new abilities are unlocked. Blood powers are more attack-based while light powers tend more towards healing and protection. In addition to these power unlocks, the story will change depending on where the karma meter is. It's an interesting system that adds an extra dimension to combat, and early on the player will even get an ability that allows them to switch the alignment of nearby monsters. The only major issue with the system is that it is never adequately explained. As for boss encounters,  there is one every three levels and they provide some of the game's most impressive and interesting foes. They aren't easy, but they also don't overly tax players, thus preventing frustration from kicking in.

Surrounded by evil zombie
                                        nurses. Surrounded by evil zombie nurses.

   On the visual front Book of Memories has a nice clean look to it which makes good use of the Vita's power. Environments are interesting, lighting looks great, and the art design is consistent and fantastic. The game runs at a steady clip with no slowdown, with the only issue being long initial load times when entering a level. The music is equally well done, doing a great job setting the tone for each of the different zones and never detracting from the gameplay. There are some tracks that aren't precisely memorable but the design of the music seems intended to be more environmental anyway. Sound effects in the game are equally fantastic, providing the necessary impact for weapons and monster attacks.

    At the end of the day Silent Hill: Book of Memories manages to provide a change of pace to the dungeon crawling genre which has become somewhat stale. Multiplayer along with hundreds of bonus levels with new story content and other goodies to find provide nearly endless replayability beyond the main campaign. Fans of Silent Hill and those new to the series alike will find something to enjoy about this game. If not for a light story and a repetitive feeling at times, this game could easily have challenged the likes of the main Silent Hill series. Here's hoping we see more dungeon crawlers that do more than just copy and paste Diablo.

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