Silent Hill was a big surprise for the entire Run to the Sun crew.
Michael Cunningham: Going into this, I'd heard positive reports, but wanted to see how Book of Memories held up for myself. After a quick trip through the first stage playing solo and getting adjusted to the combat, I was soon joined by the other three RPGamer staff members for the second zone. The four of us gathered together, all wielding huge maces, and we started through the dungeon. I had chosen the bookworm class, which meant that I was able to boost my mind and intelligence stats. Thankfully, class does not restrict your playstyle as much as allow enhancement to it. When I leveled up, I could still select any stats to boost.
The three of us fought our way through two more dungeons. I tended to be the person that found keys to unlock doors. Sam and Adriaan did more exploration and combat, while Emanuel helped solve the puzzles at the end of stages. After the second dungeon was completed, we gathered together to tackle a huge boss with a powerful fire attack. While it seemed like more luck than skill, before too long we'd beaten the boss down and were rewarded with more loot.
The game surprised me with how interesting the multiplayer mode is. Being able to play over the internet and not just locally makes it 100% more likely that I'll actually play this game. While we were only playing in ad hoc mode, there was no noticeable lag at all. While I didn't get to try it out, apparently the game does offer voice chat functionality, though thankfully the game isn't so complicated as to need it.
The customization offered goes beyond simple stat increases, offering new accessories for cosmetic purposes and artifacts for stat boosts. There are a lot of weapons available throughout the game and supposedly an entire magic system that I didn't even get to see. While it's not super deep, the game was more than passable. It was fun to play, easy to get into, and great in multiplayer. Book of Memories might not be a Vita system seller, but it's an easy recommendation for any current Vita owner.
The rest of the Run to the Sun crew had their own thoughts.
Players will have to scrounge whatever weapons they can find - fire axes, shovels, wrenches — anything is fair game.
Sam Marchello: I'm going to be upfront with my feelings: I expected Silent Hill: Book of Memories to be a complete trainwreck. Even with the positive reports floating around the internet, a part of me found myself completely stumped by the buzz surrounding this title. After playing it, I'm actually pleasantly surprised by Wayforward and Konami's efforts, even if it's something that I normally wouldn't play.
I admit, I'm just not a dungeon crawler fan, and while it was nice to play a game that doesn't drag on those elements, I found myself having a hard time connecting with the title while playing it single player. Since the multiplayer doesn't open up until after a character has been created and the first zone has been completed, you're forced to fend for yourself, which is great in terms of learning the basic mechanics. However, it's not that deep or interesting to play on your own. Once the crew was able to select the multiplayer option, the game got much more interesting as we found ourselves roaming through blood filled dungeons, picking up fragments of memories in the form of puzzle pieces. In one instance, I found myself trapped in a room with a little girl sobbing, and the sound effects within that section were surprisingly creepy.
Truly, the game was a lot more fun just roaming around with your pals and discussing conflicts that each of us were facing. It was also great to have breakable weapons that you then didn't realize were broken, only to wind up punching an enemy in the face to death. There's definitely a meaningful experience for those who enjoy this style of game, but this one just wasn't for me. I enjoy its aesthetics, but its gameplay certainly left a lot to be desired. This is a game that I feel you need to play with friends to make it a more enjoyable experience.
Adriaan den Ouden: Silent Hill: Book of Memories was a weird and unexpected surprise. It's odd enough for a franchise like Silent Hill to jump to a new genre of gameplay, but it's even stranger when the execution is as competent as this one turned out to be.
My immediate reaction was that this game looked and felt and played like what Dead Island wanted to be. There are breakable weapons and nasty, horror-movie enemies, and gameplay consists of walking through each dungeon, clearing out the enemies, and picking up new weapons when they break down. Unlike Dead Island, the creepy feeling is legitimate, especially thanks to the dark lighting and use of a flashlight, the scattered weapons serve a purpose, and there isn't a terrible hip hop theme song.
Whether or not the finished product delivers on all these early-game impressions is something I am very much looking forward to seeing.
Special delivery! It's your entire life in a single book!
Emanuel Merino: I was also pleasantly surprised by Book of Memories. An isometric dungeon crawler ARPG sounds like a strange fit for the Silent Hill franchise, but according to project lead Tomm Hulett, this game evolved into its current form quite naturally from the Silent Hill team's desire to create something new on Vita. At its core, the game is a top down dungeon crawler with randomized dungeons. When you first start the game, you are given the choice of picking from a few character classes that are unique to Book of Memories. The classes include Jock, Preppy, Goth, and Bookworm. Like Mac mentioned above, each class confers a different stat bonus and different cosmetic options during creation.
The game itself is structured into a series of random dungeons divided into different elemental zones. The bulk of the story is told through notes and broadcast transmissions that you find in the dungeons. The notes and transmissions are stored in your journal and allow you to go back and piece together the story whenever you want.
Even in a group with three other people, the game still manages to maintain a scary atmosphere, thanks in large part to a clever flashlight mechanic. You always have a flashlight at your disposal that effectively lights up any room you are in, highlighting any weapons you can pick up and making it easier to actually see any monsters in a room. The downside is that the flashlight enrages certain enemies, like Sillent Hill's iconic nurses, making them stronger.
A strong focus of the combat system revolves around wielding dual or two-handed weapons. You have two buttons that control each hand and you can hold the button down to charge up a stronger attack. Before I got my giant mace, like Mac mentioned above, I spent most of my time with the game using a knife and revolver combo. It was a pretty fun and fast mix, allowing me to change up my strategy on the fly. The great thing about the weapon system is that while weapons can break and are largely disposable, your skill with them is always growing. Each specific weapon type has its own experience system and levels up with use. So even if your current hatchet breaks, the next one you find will still be at level five, for example. We were told that there is also a full-fledged magic system in the game, but we didn't get to see it in our short playthrough.
Magic circles and blood-stained carpets.
I did have a few problems with Book of Memories. The first is the clumsy use of touch controls. To pick up items from chests you have to reach your thumb off the controls and touch an item's icon. In general, the game does have a clumsy UI in several places, especially the character menus, but it wasn't enough to hamper my fun. The other problem I had during the demo is that the Vita went into sleep mode while I was taking notes. When I woke up the device I had been kicked from the game. Unfortunately, the game doesn't feature drop-in drop-out co-op, so I had to sit out on the final big boss fight.
To reach the first ending takes about 15-20 hours, and after that you can go back and change some of your decisions in the game to try to get the other five or so endings. This is accomplished by rewriting your Book of Memories. You rewrite your book by finding new notes and making different choices in Forsaken Rooms, rooms containing traumatic memories that have three different possible outcomes based on how you approach these non-combat situations. After you beat the game, it does get harder and you can continue playing randomized dungeons endlessly, either alone or with friends, getting stronger and looking for every last note and transmission you missed during your initial playthrough.
There are plans in the future for a DLC expansion pack that should add more content to the game, but details on that are sparse at the moment. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by Book of Memories. I like the combat system, the fact that weapon classes level up with use, the atmosphere, and the co-op play. What little I saw of the story looked interesting, and the setting is very unique for this genre of game. I expected very little going into Book of Memories and left with a strong interest in seeing how the final product pans out. Silent Hill: Book of Memories will be out on October 16, 2012. Keep watching RPGamer for our continuing coverage.