Silent Hill: Book of Memories review for PS Vita

Platform: PlayStation Vita
Publisher: Konami
Developer: WayForward Technologies
Medium: Digital/Vita Card
Players: 1-4
Online: Yes

I don’t have a lot of personal history with the Silent Hill franchise. I wasn’t really into non-sports video games until well into the current console generation, which means that my experience with the series has basically been limited to playing the first one on my PSP as a PS1 classic, and then playing the awful HD collection that came out earlier this year. I’m obviously aware of the series’ significance, but I certainly don’t have any strong opinions on it one way or another.

In other words, I’m either the absolute worst persion to be writing about Silent Hill: Book of Memories, since I don’t know how much WayForward desecrated a once-proud franchise, or the best, since my perceptions of the game aren’t burdened by expectations of what it should be. The more I play the game, though, the more I wish that did have expectations to be dashed, since then I might have an opinion that goes beyond “Silent Hill: Book of Memories is a game that exists”.

That’s probably the best and worst that can be said of Silent Hill’s Vita debut. It’s not a bad game by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s not a great one, either. It’s competently made, and it’s sure to have people who enjoy it. At the same time, however, if you’ve played one level, you’ve basically played them all — outside of the boss fights, the gameplay here doesn’t vary much from hacking and slashing your way through rooms, and then solving a puzzle to progress to the next level.

That said, I don’t want to be too down on Silent Hill: Book of Memories; quiet competence is a severely underrated quality. Besides, while it may not be the most ambitious game, it does what it wants to do extremely well. It reimagines survival horror in a way that’s well-suited to pick-up-and-play handheld gaming sessions. You probably wouldn’t want to crawl your way through the various dungeons (or, if you want to be precise, haunted mansions/villages/giant spooky complexes) for any extended period of time, but in short bursts, hacking and slashing your way through the monsters that inhabit the game can be fun.

It’s important to emphasize that phrase, “short bursts”. What’s enjoyable for fifteen or twenty minutes can easily turn into a slog for longer. While I have no doubt that fans of endless grinding would love extended Silent Hill: Book of Memories sessions, particularly if they can find people to play online with (which, sadly, I could not), after awhile it all started blurring together for me. Even if the enemies start getting more complex and challenging the further in you get, the basic gameplay and presentation (top down, isometric action, just so we’re clear) never varies.

But again, that’s far from the worst thing in the world. I can’t foresee Silent Hill: Book of Memories winning any Game of the Year awards, nor should it, but if you’re in the mood for solidly reliable horror on the go, this should be more than enough to scratch that itch.

Grade: B-