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Silent Hill: Book of Memories (PS Vita) review: Silent Hill: Book of Memories (PS Vita)

The Good Addictive in the right circumstances
Some subtle nods to the series' past
Lots of replay value if you want it

The Bad Long load times
Occasionally frustrating combat
Randomized floors might involve too much backtracking

The Bottom Line Silent Hill: Book of Memories falls short as both a dungeon-crawler and a horror game.

6.0 Overall

Plenty of franchises can make successful departures from one genre to another, whether for a one-off side story or an entirely new spin-off series. The experiment may inspire apprehension in the hearts of the series' fans, but it can also breathe much-needed life into something that's growing stale. Silent Hill: Book of Memories attempts to extract the survival horror trappings from Silent Hill and put them into a dungeon crawler--losing most of the horror in the process. In some ways it works better than you might expect it to, providing the same kind of addictive role-playing game grinding you find in other games in the genre. At the same time, it loses a lot of what people like about the series, and it doesn't do well enough as either a horror game or an RPG to make the game great.

Don't you want to beat up Pyramid Head with a guitar?

Book of Memories begins, unsurprisingly, with a book. The titular Book of Memories arrives on your character's birthday, in a mysterious package from the town of Silent Hill. Your character, whom you customize before starting the game, quickly learns that his or her entire life's story is written in the book (it must not be too exciting, because the book isn't that thick). This is immediately followed up by the idea to change what's written in the book, ultimately leading to a past-changing journey through your nightmarish psyche.

Like many a dungeon crawler before it, Book of Memories is built around randomized dungeon floors, or zones. Typical of most action RPGs, clearing a zone involves a lot of whacking enemies with weapons to get experience, money, and loot, with less of an emphasis on the latter. Most weapons are reminiscent of those in the earlier Silent Hill games, meaning you pick up a lot of wooden planks and steel pipes. These weapons break relatively easily, but they can be repaired with a toolkit or simply replaced with similar weapons scattered throughout the environment. Both melee and projectile weapons are either one-handed or two-handed, and one-handed weapons can be dual-wielded. Different enemies have different weaknesses to weapons, so you might want to pay attention to what you bring with you.

Don't you want to beat up Pyramid Head with a guitar?

The stats for these weapons aren't surfaced well, but to some extent it doesn't matter. Every fire axe you find is exactly the same as every other, and there are a finite number of weapon types available, negating some sense of the discovery and loot lust found in other dungeon crawlers. You may find that you have an affinity for a particular weapon, but at a certain point you've seen all there is to see. Weapons can be leveled up through extended use, but it's a long process, and it's not clear what improvements are acquired when you do so. A simple magic system can also be used by collecting either "light" or "blood" karma, enabling healing skills and offensive skills, respectively. Karma is earned by killing enemies of the opposite type (so you gain light karma for killing blood enemies), and early on you gain the ability to flip the alignment of nearby enemies, leading to an almost Ikaruga-esque strategy implementation of killing certain enemies before others.

For the most part, all of this could be an explanation of any dungeon crawler. The Silent Hill aspects come into play more in the environments, the enemies (from nurses to straitjackets to, yes, Pyramid Head), and, most interestingly, the puzzles. Each randomized zone has puzzle pieces and a puzzle hint scattered throughout it. You use these pieces to solve a basic puzzle and open the zone's exit. It's neat the first few times, though unfortunately all of the puzzles follow the same basic pattern of asking you to order all the pieces by size or color, in some direction hinted at not too subtly by the given hint. When playing alone, there are also "forsaken rooms," which serve as mini-puzzles and have good, bad, and neutral possible outcomes. Similar to the end-of-zone puzzles, these rooms are a nice idea and are interesting a few times, but they lack variety.

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