Book of Memories is probably the strangest direction for a Silent Hill game. This entry in the franchise brings a lot of firsts to the series, with the biggest departure being the fact that it is no longer a third person survival-horror game but more of a dungeon crawler with a heavy multiplayer focus. Sound like a Silent Hill game? No? I thought not. Though Book of Memories is a bizarre direction for the horror series to go in, it really wouldn't have been that bad of an idea if the game had turned out a little better. With its troubled development history, there's no wonder it turned out to mediocre.
Book of Memories is a top-down dungeon crawler game with a Silent Hill paint job. If you changed the monster design, this could have been any random horror game. There’s loot to collect and you can dual wield weapons as up to four friends go room to room through 100 Silent Hill-themed levels, with very bare customized characters, hacking and slashing and beating your way through different creatures, with both returning and new monsters mixed in. At the end of each level there is a puzzle to solve that lets you open the door to the next stage.
This is a very long game, and if you’re playing by yourself it can be even longer as levels can get very difficult - especially if you haven’t upgraded the inventory to carry more med kits and repair tools for your weapons as you'll find yourself with too few supplies to make it through the missions. Your inventory can also be upgraded to hold more weapons at once as well as additional booster items that are earned by completing optional objectives in each mission. As you play the game, experience is earned and used to level up stats like an RPG and money can be spent in mission shops to purchase optional clothing pieces, med kits, and repair items.
The story is usually the reason I play Silent Hill games, and while Book of Memories doesn't have much story, what's there is fascinating; they just don’t do anything to emphasize or embrace it. This game seems to be sold on gameplay alone, and unfortunately that isn’t enough to push this title. The slim story revolves around your nameless character getting the Book of Memories on their birthday by a creepy mailman who becomes the shop keeper in the dream world. This book has detailed every moment of your life until the day you get the book and you have the bright idea to try and change the past by rewriting the book. From then on the game just throws you from mission to mission with no real explanation of what is going on with your character. Now here’s my favorite part of the game: There are multiple worlds and each has a set number of levels. Each world is themed differently from the normal dark world you may be used to, including a dark forest or creepy monastery. While traveling through levels you find pages that detail someone who has encountered the Book of Memories and learn about their life. This idea is fascinating and again, while it isn’t brought to full fruition, it is still the most interesting aspect of the game and I love the idea of discovering the lives of other people through the pages of this book.
Silent Hill: Book of Memories is nothing to brag about in the looks department. All of the worlds are well realized and the characters look alright but the few cutscenes available are very stiff and have a weird quality to them. For as many times as this game was pushed back and delayed, it’s not that surprising. The biggest stand-out aesthetic about this game is the music. Silent Hill has always had good music, though. The enemies also look good, and you can easily tell your returning favorites and different monsters apart, though it's still apparent that the developers went for quantity over quality here.
When playing this game by yourself,the game is just kind of boring. Silent Hill: Book of Memories was clearly designed as a multiplayer game and as such, it really works best if you have multiple people playing with you. Thankfully, the multiplayer works pretty well with a lobby system that’s easy to use. The downside, really, is that there just aren’t a lot of people playing. This game is the definition of short burst fun. I found it the most effective when I was just playing through the game one mission at a time and then taking a break. Silent Hill fans won’t really find a lot dragging them to this title that really adds nothing to the franchise other than a gameplay style that you normally don’t see attached to a name like Silent Hill.
While RPGs and dungeon crawler games are my favorite style of hand held games, there are better options than Book of Memories. The Silent Hill aesthetic is pretty well represented, but the game itself struggles to maintain mediocrity. The game is great in short bursts, but fails to hold your attention for long periods of time. I recommend only picking this up if you have some people to play with or are willing to take the risk of finding players online. If not, then this game is really just a rental only. While it’s a unique idea for the franchise it just doesn’t pull off what it’s trying to do in any kind of exciting way. Maybe one day they will take another shot at it and get it right but until then Book of Memories should be labeled “approach at your own risk.”