Silent Hill: Book of Memories is set to be the first Silent Hill title on the Playstation Vita. The game has received a lot of criticism from fans practically since its inception. It doesn't matter that no one had spent time playing the game. Simply looking at the underwhelming screenshots or thinking about the game being multiplayer was enough to send fans into a frenzy. Konami finally brought the WayForward-developed title onto E3's show floor and as such I gave it a shot. Does it manage to be a solid game on its own or is it struggling to find itself?
At first glance, the world definitely has visuals that one would expect from the series. It's very dark, full of claustrophobic hallways and rooms, full of rusty grating, and has its fair share of locked doors. Initially, it's a bit unusual though for the top down perspective the game has. This is due to the fact that Book of Memories is basically a dungeon crawler. You move from room to room and seek out objects to interact with, weapons to pick up, or enemies to destroy. So far it probably sounds mostly like any other Silent Hill title, minus the perspective and multiplayer functionality. While I wasn't able to test out the co-op play I was able to still sample a fair bit of the single player experience.
Unfortunately, the game leaves much to be desired when playing solo. As far as the demo level showcased, it did very little to distinguish itself as I moved from room to room. The theme of the area seemed to be set on one thing so every room was exactly the same. I'm not sure what kind of place it was meant to be, but even in each section of Silent Hill games, you get a variety of rooms to check out.
For example, hospitals have a lot of similar patient rooms, but with some variety of nurse stations, and creepier surprises. In this level of Book of Memories, everything looked exactly the same. Hopefully other levels have more variety of rooms because otherwise it dulls the thrill of searching.
You know what else makes the trek from room to room boring? There's barely any puzzling to be found (from what I played). There are certainly locked doors which you need keys to open, which could be interesting, except that there's no puzzle based around getting the keys. In previous Silent Hill games, often part of the effort of simply progressing is doing puzzles to gain access to a key. Other times, keys are placed in strange places. In this game you're basically able to rifle through shelves and drawers for items.
Sometimes you'll grab a health pack and other times you'll find the key you need. This could be okay if at least the key would hint as to where you need it without giving an answer. This isn't the case either though as the keys are all the same and just used as an artificial method to hindering progress until you look at every object in rooms.
Combat has never really been a high point or focus for Silent Hill. Here, the game definitely seems to want you to fight your way through. This isn't a problem by itself because that's how the game presents itself. It is a spin-off game where you are meant to kick the butt of as many enemies as possible while progressing. Fighting is a simplistic affair so far as the demo is concerned. The nurse enemies took a while to take down, but I never worried about my character's health. Fighting wasn't tense, or even interesting, and that's one failing of the game. Why seek to continue if you're not met with challenge?
Does the story stand up against these complaints? Again, this seems to be a missed opportunity. Everything else could have a lackluster performance and the story could still shine. From the bit of story that I got though, it seems it will be very thin. Basically, you get a book mailed to you and it features all your lifetime memories. Weeeeeird! The concept is much more laughable than it is creepy, at least it was with how the game presented it.
One of the most glaring issues I encountered with the game was not a glitch but the loading screen. Over the years we have gone back and forth with loading screens being quicker or slower, but for this game it wins the award of longest load time I've experienced yet on the Vita (through playing four or so games). Doing my best to count the time, one loading screen was about 40 seconds long. At least once you're in the level you are free to explore from room to room, but it was still quite the unfortunate shock.
Of course, then there's also the problems of it looking same-y throughout the level and offering little critical thinking. Adding these things together, the demo of Book of Memories wasn't creepy or even fun. It's such a shame that this is what Konami chose to present. The game was at least stable and not glitching left and right, but it doesn't change the fact that it isn't very interesting at all. Perhaps this was just a really poor level to showcase and things change as you continue. So far though, it's not looking good for this upcoming Vita game. WayForward has a ways to go if they want to craft an entertaining experience.