Silent Hill: Book of Memories has one of the most intriguing introductions I've seen all year. It involves a mysterious book that is delivered to the lead character. Upon closer inspection, it turns out that this is actually a transcript of everything that character had ever done. It was a comprehensive list of choices, both big and small. But maybe it's more than that. What would happen if you erase the past and rewrite your own story?
Unfortunately, Konami's newest Silent Hill game isn't very interested in finding out. What could have been a captivating tale of the butterfly effect of rewriting history quickly devolves into little more than hacking and slashing. To make matters worse, most of the story revolves around a cast of characters we only know through notes and television transmissions. By the time the story wraps up, we've completely lost the thread and are dumbfounded by the game's insane twists.
Book of Memories is not your typical Silent Hill game. Konami trades spooky survival horror for a more action oriented dungeon crawler. You play a character of your own creation, either male or female. From there you are sent into a series of randomly created dungeons where you fight enemies, collect keys, pocket gold, solve puzzles and defeat bosses. It's like Diablo with pyramid heads, double-headed dogs and the occasional sexy undead nurse.
Told in the vaguest way possible, Silent Hill involves the player jumping into different people's minds. It seems we are erasing and rewriting people's memories, which leads to destructive results. We are clued into what's going on through notes left lying around and optional TV broadcasts. One could go through most of this game without knowing what's going on, simply treating it as a typical hack and slash action game.
That's too bad, since there are hints of a compelling narrative buried deep inside this game. There's the story of the co-worker you screw over. Another chapter involves you getting reacquainted with an old high school crush. There's the story of the police officer who suspects foul play and the ex-boyfriend that won't leave me alone. Since these stories were never fleshed out, I found it incredibly hard to care what happened in the day to day life of my character.
Believe it or not, Silent Hill lends itself well to the trappings of a dungeon crawler. The series is appropriately spooky and the bad guys aren't that far removed from what I saw in Torchlight. And even though it doesn't make a ton of sense to the confusing storyline, you can bring three other players in to help you explore every inch of the levels.
Each level plays out in largely the same way. The idea is to go from room to room looking for objects that will later be used to solve the gate's tricky puzzle. The good news is that these objects are easy to find, they are always hidden in a blue orb that gets marked on your mini-map. Unfortunately, breaking these blue orbs means that you'll have to complete some sort of challenge. Pick up all the puzzle pieces and it's off to assemble them and move on to the next stage.
Each of the levels is modeled after different environments found around Silent Hill. You start out in an underground industrial plant, the sort of place Freddy Krueger has nightmares of. Before long we're battling possessed dogs through a cabin in the woods, gothic castle, buildings and more. The stages may look different, but they all play out exactly the same way.
Silent Hill: Book of Memories is full of firsts. It's the first multi-player game in the series and the first to incorporate top-down dungeon crawler mechanics. Unfortunately, it's also the first game to make me want to throw my PS Vita out the window. Gamers will have a good time in small groups, but anybody hoping to go it alone should look elsewhere!
This product was submitted by the publisher for review. As a rule, Defunct Games does not review games we spent money on. However, that does not always apply to classic/retro games. This specific product, however, came straight from a PR guy for the purposes of being reviewed!