Silent Hill: Book of Memories is a departure from the classic Silent Hill formula we are all used to, and with the most recent incarnations of the series falling short of the original, this departure is welcomed with open arms. So the question remains whether or not it was a good idea or not?
You begin by creating a custom (albeit limited) character, male or female, and immediately start the game with a cutscene that lays out the story. A mysterious book has been sent to you from an unknown sender located in the town of Silent Hill, and you soon discover it reads like a diary of your entire life. The main protagonist figures out he/she can change the text in order to ostensibly change their life for the better. Sadly, this is where all the cutscenes stop, until the end of the game where there are multiple endings, as fans of the series have come to expect.
Throughout the game you simply jump from zone to zone, and are never a hundred percent sure on what is actually happening in the story. You assume that the protagonist is changing things in the book repeatedly, yet the game barely hints at this, and you never know whether these changes are large or small, or if they are actually affecting or altering your life. You simply aren't shown, which makes the excellent premise of the story almost useless. The bulk of the story is drip fed to you through random notes, but some are completely irrelevant and require a lot of effort to piece together the narrative. On occasion you will hear an audio tape of conversations from people in the main protagonist’s life; these are voiced brilliantly and you feel the tension begin to ratchet up, however this only occurs late in the game, which is unfortunate.
All levels are broken up into zones, and all story aspects are based around a certain person in your life, which is again a conclusion I had to come to myself. In some ways this is quite cool, but I can imagine many people finishing this entire game not knowing what on Earth was going on. Each zone is broken up into a grid of square/rectangular rooms which are inhabited by enemies, challenges, items and several other secret rooms. Completing challenges will unlock puzzle pieces that are required to complete a level, and these challenges always involve emptying a room of enemies.
Completing challenges can get very monotonous at times, but thankfully new enemy types are introduced often, and the game gets harder as you progress, although in some cases frustratingly so. A large portion of this frustration lies in the auto-save function and the complete lack of checkpoints. There is usually one save room in an entire stage, however you may have to fight through hordes of enemies until you get to one, and saving with little health and no health packs can be very irritating. This is made even worse by the lengthy load times between retries, for example we clocked one at a staggering 45 seconds, and this was with the game downloaded from the PSN on a memory card.