The Silent Hill HD Collection really hurt………

The collection, a seemingly “just release it and you can’t fail” HD coupling of Silent Hill 2 and 3, only compounded the now popular belief that Konami has lost their way with this once beautifully brutal and wondrously horrific franchise. The collection only serves as yet another blotch on Silent Hill’s increasingly questionable contemporary lineage.

You really have to feel sorry for Silent Hill: Book of Memories then. It’s not its fault that it’s the next game to have the words Silent Hill attached to it. It’s release has been completely undermined by Konami’s inability to, at the very least, be consistent and get something as seemingly straight forward as a HD re-release right. I mean, Konami even admit that the game is unanimously broken, but they won’t be patching it anymore. These inconsistencies and downright unacceptable boardroom decisions render Book of Memories something of a lamb to the slaughter.

The fact that Book of Memories is a spin off means it’s not exactly helping itself either. This isn’t a “traditional” Silent Hill game, it’s more of a top down, hack and slash, dungeon crawling RPG than it is anything else. You can’t begrudge them for trying something new to be fair. However, would it not make sense to do something different at a time when the flagship canonical series is doing everything right? Then it wouldn’t be as much of a risk and more gamers would buy into the idea that a spin off might not be the worse idea in the world. I mean, booting up Book of Memories and being greeted by a character customization screen is pretty tough to take. Silent Hill games don’t even have HUDs, and now someone is asking you if you want your character to dress like a goth or a jock. Thankfully for everyone involved, the demo can only get better.

Once you’ve chosen your character’s look, the game’s premise is revealed. You’re gifted a mysterious book that contains written personal memories which also appear to tap into the Silent Hill series’ greater worlds, character and creatures. You must rewrite these memories, but not before you have to trawl through countless dungeon style spaces filled with any number of characteristically gruesome Silent Hill monsters. Once thrust into this demonic world, you’ll be thrown straight into the thick of it. While early gameplay snippets seemed to put a particular impetus on combat, it might surprise you as to how much actual exploration there is herein. There’s quite a bit actually. You’ll have to source keys to unlock doors, collect puzzle pieces and compete in challenges to attain additional progression determining extras. Challenges generally represent clearing a room of enemies or doing the very same but with a time limit attached. It will be interesting to see how the explorative energy of the game pans out and as such, this represents probably one of the more interesting layers of the otherwise fairly straight forward non-specific gameplay.

The combat, even at this point, feels pretty sluggish and doesn’t advance further than button bashing. This is going to get repetitive pretty quickly. You can dual wield, which is interesting, but all the weapons feel the same and you can’t really tell if a knife dishes more damage than a plank of wood, a pipe or a punch. Killing enemies in this demo requires no strategy. Just mash away and you’ll eventually kill them off. It’s all very unsatisfying. However, given that you can upgrade abilities, weapons, skills etc, one can only hope that as you become more skilled and more powerful, the enemies put before you will represent more of a challenge.

Visually, it’s not exactly inspiring. It’s not bad, but given that the Vita has proven that it can pack some serious visuals, as it is, Book of Memories won’t be winning any graphical accolades come the end of the year. In saying that, everything is crisp and clear and it retains some of the grit synonymous with Silent Hill’s visuals, especially with reference to the environments. They’re quite static, but retain a grittiness that you’d expect from a space in Silent Hill. They have a character about them somewhat consistent with the greater atmosphere of repulsion and disgust that you expect from Silent Hill.

As for how the game uses Vita’s unquie features, the demo allows you to use the touch screen to solve a handful of puzzles with a bit of finger dragging. Selecting weaponry, reloading and healing yourself is handled by on screen icons that can be touched and activated when required.

Book of Memories is going to be a hard sell for Konami. The Silent Hill franchise seemingly doesn’t know what it is anymore and Book of Memories almost certainly isn’t going to be its saviour. Admittedly, the demo has more going for it than you might have been led to believe and is certainly worthy of a play through. But there are ominous signs here that this could well be yet another diluted experience with the Silent Hill name attached.

Silent Hill: Book of Memories is available on PlayStation Vita from November 2nd in Ireland and the rest of Europe.