I went into Silent Hill: Book of Memories thinking it would be bad, mostly because I’m used to the previous presentations of the game while also knowing the background ideas that played pivotal parts in the franchise evolution. The only thing that grabbed my interest was the story. Still, surprisingly, there was quite a bit to Silent Hill: Book of Memories that turned out to be pretty good. It could, and even should, be better. But as an overall product it isn’t the insultingly bad shlockfest that I was fearing. It’s fun while having a strong and very human story. The sound design and visual style is great. Even the randomly generated level maps lead increased replayability. There are just some places where the game really didn’t live up the potential that it showed and even proved to have. Some of these are just the personal (too big and ambitious) preferences. However, some of these are serious gripes.
One of the things that was actually advertised with Silent Hill: Book of Memories is the fact that players would be changing their character’s history. It was one of the things that I was looking forward to actually seeing. Unfortunately, we got the karma system. Basic premise is that when you kill a monster they drop a specific karma essence – white for positive, red for negative. The more karma you absorb, the more your history changes. So if you get red in your ledger, your history becomes more negative. If you get white in your ledger, the change is positive. It’s a gross oversimplification of what could be a really strong mechanic.
Lack of customizable and shareable back story
OK. This one was a huge letdown and continues off of the karma gripe. First, the Vita has a lot of hardware/software that would be useful in creating custom and shareable personal in-game histories, including a virtual keyboard to physically rewrite the pages of each player’s book of memories. Second, one of the biggest things about the game is that it’s a legitimate multiplayer Silent Hill game. If the karma system is rewriting your history rather than you, all you get is a group of jackasses or angels for the exact same reasons. It’s ignoring the fact that the Vita actually has at least a virtual keyboard for the player to actually write with. It ignores the moral grey zone that the games and movies dwell in. And lastly, it kills the idea of players sharing what they’re trying to change (and how they are changing it) with other players because all personal histories are essentially the same. It makes a multiplayer Silent Hill game with custom characters about rewriting personal histories meaningless.
This one is really weird because a lot of the creatures are things we’ve run into in the previous games. There’s two versions of each monster, one that drops positive karma and one that drops negative karma – separated by how either clean or bloody they are in comparison to each other. The only real major additions being the elemental guardian monsters at the end of each chapter. It just feels like there are a lot of missed opportunities here.
It’s a toss up in Silent Hill: Book of Memories. Some of the voice acting is good or at least tolerable. But some of the voice acting, particularly when you get negative karma, is laughably bad or, even worse, god awful. If it was more consistent, this wouldn’t be as big of a problem. But you can actually hear the actors doing better at many points of the game.
To finish each zone, save for the ones that you have to defeat a guardian to clear, you have to solve a puzzle. It’s a cool idea, but there’s a lot of recycling of puzzles, even though the specifics might shift from puzzle to puzzle. So occasionally parts of the game just feel like busy work.
Everyone involved deserves better
Probably the biggest problem with this game is the fact that it shows off how much it can do right and the quality drops. A lot of the game is pretty good, but the product feels mediocre due to the design decisions made. The players deserve better because they’re putting down money for a finished product. The developers deserve better because they put the time, effort and money into making a finished product.