San Diego Comic-Con 2012: Hands-On Impressions of Silent Hill: Book of Memories

The Silent Hill franchise has been in a state of flux for what seems like ages. With the new Playstation Vita exclusive entry in the series, Silent Hill: Book of Memories, developer Wayforward Technologies is taking the franchise in an entirely new direction.

Book of Memories begins with your character receiving a mysterious package. Upon opening it, you discover that it contains a book that encompasses your entire life, every experience, every hope, every fear, every memory. You wonder to yourself, “What would happen if I rewrote it?” And so begins the descent into madness, into Silent Hill.

Unlike previous entries, Book of Memories is not a survival horror experience. Having more in common with classic dungeon crawlers like Diablo and Torchlight, Book of Memories is an extreme departure from every other installment in the franchise.

You start off your game by creating your character. Which in and of itself is kind of strange for a Silent Hill title. Choose male or female, hair, clothing, you know, character creation stuff. After that, it’s off to the dungeon to bludgeon some monsters to death.

Once the game actually starts it’s obvious just how different Book of Memories is from a traditional Silent Hill title. It’s not played from the series’ standard third-person perspective. You’re not slogging through thick fog. You’re not making fight or flight decisions. You’re not cowering in a corner hoping some horrible, other worldly creature will pass by and not turn its gaze towards you. Book of Memories is a dungeon crawler through and through. It’s all about exploration, picking up better and better items, finding keys to open doors and killing everything in sight to see just what kind of goodies they might drop.

Combat has never been what you could call a staple in Silent Hill. It’s always been there, but more because it had to be rather than ever being a real draw to the franchise. But inBook of Memories, the combat is front and center at all times. It seems like every new room you explore is filled with at least two of Silent Hill’s demonic denizens just waiting for your various instruments of death to meet with their deformed faces. Pipes, boards, axes, pistols, all the usual manner of weapons are at your disposal. If you use one much, however, it’ll break and you’ll be left with nothing but your bare hands to defend yourself with. Of course, being a loot driven game, you’re never too far away from getting your hands on something to improve your predicament.

In addition to murdering things, there’s also some light puzzle solving here and there. On the floor I played, I was tasked with searching the area to find five puzzle pieces that I had to bring to a door at the end of the area in order to advance. After fighting my way through a dozen or so rooms, I finally had all the necessary pieces. I returned to the door to face my task. It was fairly simple; I had 5 different sized pieces and had to figure out which configuration they had to be in to fit on a pattern. After a couple of tries, I had it figured out and was on my way to the next floor, and the end of the demo.

If you’re not ready to face the horrors alone, in good dungeon crawling fashion there’s also a co-op mode, a first for Silent Hill. In this mode, up to 4 people can bring their unique characters into the fray and join forces to take on whatever the evil town can throw at you.

Being a Vita game, you always have to wonder just how developers are going to make use of the handheld’s myriad of special features. Wayforward Technologies seem to get it. Rather than using anything in a fashion that’s intrusive, or too taxing, they’re used to free up tasks that would have usually been assigned to the precious real estate that are the face buttons. Stuff like picking up weapons and dragging the items around to solve puzzles are all assigned to the front touch screen. It does exactly what the technology should do, make things simpler and more stream lined.

When I sat down to check out Book of Memories, I wasn’t really sure to expect. Eschewing survival horror for loot lust seems like a strange decision, but for the most part it works. A full on horror game on a handheld would be extremely hard, impossible even, to pull off on a portable console. If for no other reason than that it would be tricky to really get under someone’s skin on a small screen while riding on the bus. With smaller, more bite sized levels, and endless loot lust, a dungeon crawler like this is much more suited for a console like the Vita.

Longtime fans of Silent Hill looking for a survival horror experience they can take with them on the go may be disappointed, but if you’re a Vita owner who’s looking for a Diablo-esque experience you can have on you at all times, Book of Memories seems like it will be right up your alley.

Silent Hill:Book of Memories will release in October 2012 for the Playstation Vita.

To learn more, visit the official Konami website.

San Diego Comic-Con 2012: Hands-On Impressions of Silent Hill: Book of Memories

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