Archives for posts with tag: Silent Hill

It’s been a while since I posted about my YouTube channel, A Game with Chums, so I thought I’d throw up a short update.

As Hallowe’en is now upon us, I’d like to point out that we’ve been playing horror games all month on the channel, and tomorrow, October 31st, our final video goes up. We’ve been continuing with our let’s play of Supermassive Games’ Until Dawn on Mondays, and then uploading a random horror game every Wednesday and Friday, until last week when we decided to go all out in the run up to the day itself, and post a new one daily. Here’s our latest one, which went up yesterday.

This was our first time playing Forbidden Siren, so we weren’t great at it. It was pretty tense though! Below you can also find the latest part of out Until Dawn let’s play. Things escalated pretty damn fast.

Here’s the list of all the games we’ve played so far for our month of horror, as well as the platforms we played them on. Why not catch up before our final video goes up tomorrow? I’ll also have a timely review for you tomorrow as well.

Project Zero || OG Xbox
The Evil Within || Xbox One
The Thing || OG Xbox
Yomawari: Night Alone || PSTV
Layers of Fear || Xbox One
The Suffering: Ties That Bind || OG Xbox
Dead Space || Xbox One
Corpse Party || PSTV
Condemned: Criminal Origins || Xbox One
Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth || OG Xbox
Resident Evil Revelations 2 || Xbox One
Silent Hill 2 || OG Xbox
Forbidden Siren || PS4

If you happen to check out any of our videos, please do let me know what you think below, and come back tomorrow for that final video and spooky review.

One of the surprise inclusions at Sony’s Gamescom stage show was a bizarre trailer for a new horror IP called P.T. Announced via a teaser showing gameplay footage interspersed with audience reactions, the game was apparently being developed by an unheard-of team called 7780s studio. A playable teaser (oh, I see what they did there…) was then put up on the PlayStation store for people to try for themselves.

Making it to the end of the demo revealed that it was actually a teaser for Silent Hills, a new game in the much-loved franchise brought to us by Hideo Kojima and Guillermo del Toro, starring Norman Reedus. It’s not the first time that Kojima has used a fake game and developer to announce one of his titles – everyone remembers Moby Dick Studio’s The Phantom Pain – but this announcement took things even further; it’s actually a pretty genius piece of viral marketing – the demo was put on the store for all to download with the game announcement stuck on at the end, meaning that the first person to finish P.T. effectively got to announce a new game. That honour fell to the UK’s SoapyWarpig over on Twitch. Below, you’ll find the full teaser for Silent Hills.

But let’s talk about the teaser, as it bodes well for the direction of the full game. I’m superficially reminded of two games, the first of which is Silent Hill 4: The Room. Now, bear with me – I know SH4 wasn’t the most beloved of the series, but it does appear to take some cues from that. The demo essentially takes place in two rooms and an apartment corridor, and is in first-person like Silent Hill 4‘s apartment sequences. For me, those were the best parts of SH4, penning you into a small environment and making you watch through your character Henry’s eyes as strange occurrences and hauntings began to take over his home. P.T. achieves a similar tone here, though in far, far more unsettling ways.

Setting you loose in first-person in confined spaces really ratchets up the feeling of claustrophobia, and like Silent Hill 4 we also hear strange, disembodied snatches of audio (think along the lines of “Remember – I’m always watching you,” and you’ll have some idea). Then there’s the horrible scratchy, croaky breathing that will make you spin around, time after time, to try and see where it’s coming from. Sometimes you’ll even see what’s making the noise, and then wish you hadn’t; there’s a malevolent spirit stalking you in this place, and it seems to have something to do with the skinned horror in the bathroom…

This feeling of being enclosed is amplified by a minimal approach to interaction that brings to mind something like Slender: The Eight Pages – like that game, P.T. simply drops you into an area with no explanation and expects you to figure things out for yourself. You’ll walk that corridor many, many times, solving some kind of idiosyncratic puzzle to unlock the door at the end, often without even knowing what you’re supposed to be doing until you stumble upon it. The only thing you can really do is walk around and ‘zoom in’ to look closer at things, and the fact that you can’t really affect the world around you works in tandem with the claustrophobic, smothering atmosphere. For a video game – which so often are about power fantasies and wish fulfilment – it makes you feel uniquely powerless. All you can do is stare at things in the hope that you discern some clue, and who knows what’s happening behind you while your attention is locked on that curious photo on the wall.

It’s certainly an immersive experience, and it’s not just the first-person perspective that achieves that. The game features no HUD, no battery indicator for your flashlight – no screen furniture at all. You’re simply in a creepy place with an evil spirit, forced to look at everything through your characters eyes. It puts you right into the game, and some typically-Kojima tricks like messing with what you’re seeing through some visual effects (visual distortions, intentional screen tear – I even had the game white-screen on me once, and I genuinely wondered if it had crashed) really gets under your skin. It’s reminiscent of that classic Psycho Mantis battle from Metal Gear Solid, but it works so much better in a horror game, especially when you’re seeing through the eyes of the protagonist. You’ll be surprised how something as simple as changing the colour of the lighting can be quite so unsettling – just as you feel like you’re getting used to the environment, something in the way you perceive it shifts and it takes on a new kind of malevolence.

But how does this all tie into the greater Silent Hill franchise? Is it a reboot or a sequel? We’ll have to wait and see, though I did notice something during the demo – a message appears above the ‘safe’ door that reads, “Forgive me Lisa, there’s a monster inside of me.” This could be a reference to Lisa Garland, a character from the original Silent Hill who nursed Alessa Gillespie. I haven’t yet noticed anything else that would tie this game to events of the rest of the series, but I haven’t finished the demo yet so who knows what else I’ll see. I did manage to record some of my time with P.T. however, so if you don’t have access to it you can get a good feel for what’s going on by watching my video below. Be sure to use headphones.

Time will tell whether the Lisa mentioned here is the same one that Harry Mason stumbles across in Alchemilla Hospital, or whether there’s anything connecting this new entry to any of the older games. We can also hope that Akira Yamaoka will be returning to handle the soundtrack – the little teaser at the end of the trailer seems to suggest as much. But one thing’s for certain; Silent Hills is definitely in the right hands. Kojima knows how to mess with our minds, and that’s in full effect in P.T.

About a month ago, I saw Silent Hill: Revelation, and shortly thereafter wrote of my (massive, crushing) disappointment with the film. As a big fan of the Silent Hill franchise (the first four games at least – I haven’t yet played much of the titles beyond The Room) and speaking from a position of having enjoyed the first film, I was disheartened to find that despite the filmmakers getting many of the details right, the film as a whole was poorly conceived, and often downright cheesy.

Two positives came out of the experience, though; firstly, the end-credits music led to my ‘Musical Mondays’ piece (linked at the bottom of this article), and secondly, it made me want to replay Silent Hill 3, if only to banish the memories of the film from my mind. Armed with the much-maligned Silent Hill HD Collection (PS2 games tend to look pretty damn horrible on an HDTV, even with a component cable), I set to work. It goes without saying that spoilers may follow – I’ll try to keep them to a minimum, but if you’ve never played Silent Hill 3 before (where have you been!?) and are planning to do so, avert your beady eyes.

The first thing that hit me upon loading up the game is the main theme, ‘You’re Not Here’. I mentioned in my piece about the music of Silent Hill that I couldn’t really remember any of the game’s soundtrack, so it was a surprise when this song came storming back into memory upon hearing the first few bars. I’m not sure how I ever forgot it.

The second thing that I picked up on was also to do with audio – the new voice artists. Heather’s voice is vastly different from the original game – she sounds much older, and seems to possess a petulant attitude that the original artist didn’t convey. The original delivery is also more natural – the phone call to her father at the beginning of the game is a good place to see this; the original voiceover sounds like an actual, believable two-sided conversation, whereas the new track sounds more like someone reading lines with little direction – a little flatter in terms of emotion, or perhaps more specifically emotional attachment. You can see the differences in the video below.

Not all changes are bad though – Douglas Cartland’s new VA sounds appropriately grizzled and world-weary, and at first I wondered if it was Richard McGonagle (Uncharted‘s Victor ‘Sully’ Sullivan). I have since found out that he is voiced by Kirk Thornton, who also voices Harry in Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, which I have yet to play. Anime/jRPG regular Yuri Lowenthal is also present in the cast, here voicing Vincent, and Claudia Wolf’s VA does a pretty decent job too.

Considering Heather’s is the voice you’ll hear the most, it’s a bit annoying that her new track isn’t up to the standard of the original release, but the VA does grow into the role more as the game goes on, and it’s not too difficult to ignore after a while. It’s a shame though, that the HD Collection doesn’t allow the choice between both the original and the new casts, as it does for Silent Hill 2.

Getting to the game proper, it’s interesting to note quite how much of a change in pace Silent Hill 3 is from the big budget, set piece-led action games that dominate the current gen. In a climate where the relentless forward momentum of Call of Duty seems to permeate every facet of gaming (even the producers of Final Fantasy XIII admitted to being influenced by the FPS, hence the pace of that game’s battle system and the claustrophobic linearity of much of its world), it’s refreshing to get dropped into an environment where progress requires that you check every corner of every corridor, carefully cross-referencing your in-game view with your map and searching for a door you may have missed. Puzzles are also a feature of gameplay that appears to be missing in many genres these days. On normal puzzle difficulty, they don’t offer a massive challenge, but they are generally logical and need to be thought through, without making you feel too dense or frustrated. One puzzle comes to mind that requires you to use three very disparate items – before you discover the final element, it’s likely that you won’t even realise that the other two pieces need to be used together. As with most things in Silent Hill, exploring your surroundings thoroughly will often see you through.

It’s also refreshing to play a game that holds you in thrall thanks to it’s atmosphere, rather than a succession of flashy set-pieces, and it’s telling that, when you check a door, you find yourself hoping that it won’t open so that you don’t have to deal with whatever might be behind it. Instead, you find yourself hoping for a broken lock so that you can mark it off on your map and move on.

Look at all those lovely blocked doors...

Look at all those lovely blocked doors…

A couple of things struck me upon playing Silent Hill 3 again for the first time in many years. Firstly, enemies are far more abundant than in either of the preceding games in the series. Of course, this being a survival horror title, it’s usually best to run right past the bizarre monsters that inhabit this twisted world, and that’s what I did, wherever possible – this strategy also helps with item management, another big piece of the survival horror pie. Some enemies in this game are more difficult to run past unscathed, however, either due to fast movement speed or a wide reach to their attacks, meaning sometimes it’s best to clear them out, especially if they’re milling about in an area you will have to backtrack through a few times.

This lends the game more of a combat focus than previous games (which is amplified by the inclusion of weapons like the submachine gun), and given the more linear nature of Silent Hill 3, which I’ll touch on later, it makes it a bit harder to find alternate routes to avoid combat in some instances.

I was also surprised by how long the opening of the game is. In my hazy memory, I remembered Heather reaching her apartment to make a grim discovery less than an hour into the game. At the start of the game, Heather wakes from a horrible nightmare to find that she’s somehow nodded off in the middle of a Happy Burger establishment in Central Square Shopping Centre. According to my (clearly unreliable) memory, there was a short section in the otherworld mall before Heather left and reached her apartment, which would then prompt her to visit the eponymous Silent Hill.

Boy did I remember that wrong! There were a number of other environments between Heather and her home, and it was three hours of solid gameplay before I got her there. I’ll admit that the opening few hours did at times drag for me, but it’s entirely possible that it’s because I was expecting to get to Silent Hill earlier and really get stuck in to the story of Heather’s origins. A player coming to this game fresh likely won’t have the same issues and expectations.

I mentioned earlier that Silent Hill 3 is more linear than previous instalments, so I’ll go into a bit more detail on that. In the first two games, you eventually have the entire town of Silent Hill to explore; granted, many places are closed off to you thanks to roads that drop off into a dark abyss, or for the simple fact that not many buildings are open for exploration, but you have a map of the town, and you can run along the vast majority of it, scouring the streets for items or clues, or just generally running away from skinned horrors. When you finally reach the foggy town in Silent Hill 3, you can only go to the your next destination – Brookhaven Hospital. Sure, you can enter the Heaven’s Night bar from Silent Hill 2 along the way and score a few items, but it’s a momentary stop on your short run to the hospital. Should you wish to explore the shrouded streets any further, you’ll come across either a road-block of some kind, or Heather will simply tell you that that’s not the way to go, and turn back.

The more linear nature certainly lends the game a greater sense of focus, though it also feels shorter – my save file came in at around seven hours – but it’s hard not to miss the sense of atmosphere that comes from wandering the streets of the town.  The atmosphere is often saved, however, by some fantastic, almost abstract environments, like the otherworld Brookhaven, where the walls seem to be pulsing and flowing with blood, or sections of the otherworld chapel near the end of the game where the walls appear to be set aflame. It’s these otherworld locations that tend to be at the heart of how the game makes you feel uncomfortable – they’re dripping in the series’ signature blood and rust aesthetic, and the sense of creeping dread they instil, coupled with bizarre, unexplained sights such as Valtiel appearing every now and then, turning mysterious valves, gives Silent Hill 3 a different, though no less unsettling atmosphere than the depression and isolation often felt in Silent Hill 2.

Valtiel, always turning valves...

Valtiel, always turning valves…

So it’s a subtly different game from it’s immediate predecessor, whilst being recognisably of the same series. This is a good thing – Silent Hill 2 is excellent, arguably the best psychological/survival horror game yet made. Re-treading it would only produce a lesser copy. Silent Hill 3 isn’t massively dissimilar in it’s central mechanics, but it walks a different path from the same starting point, and serves as a great follow-up/companion piece to the original entry, and giving those that care to look a greater insight into the world and the dark Order at the heart of all that lurks in Silent Hill. It’s the perfect antidote to those games that whiz by in a flash of explosions and gunfire – something to unsettle you, absorb you, and make you think.

And with the nights closing in and darkness falling like a shroud, now is the perfect time to play it.

A note on the HD Collection: It’s impossible to avoid the negativity surrounding this collection upon release. I can’t speak much for the version of Silent Hill 2 contained herein, as I played just a few short hours of it when it first arrived. My biggest gripe with Silent Hill 3 is Heather’s voice, which I’ve already covered. I did encounter one or two audio bugs where a sound file seemed to abruptly stop, but this happened maybe two or three times across seven hours of play, and they were always small ambient audio samples. There were also a couple of instances of massive slowdown where the game literally ground to a halt and I wondered if it might crash. It never did, and these issues only ever cropped up after defeating a boss, and so never interrupted actual gameplay. Also, the streets of Silent Hill are as lacking in fog effects as Silent Hill 2, but considering those streets take up about five to ten minutes total of your playtime in Silent Hill 3, it’s much less of an issue here.

For the vast majority of my playtime, Silent Hill 3 ran smoothly and looked great, and if you’ve wanted to invest in this collection but were put off by the negativity, I’d say go and grab a copy. As a final note, I played the 360 version, which is supposedly the worse of the two thanks to the PS3 version receiving a second patch that Konami refused to release for Microsoft’s console. If you have a choice, buy a PS3 version, but I don’t think you should be too put off the 360 version if that’s your only choice.

Read my Silent Hill Music Special:

Well… it’s been a little spartan around here this past week (‘Spartan’, geddit??), as I’ve been dragged willingly into Halo 4‘s all-encompassing orbit. Yes, I’m still playing campaign – I like to take my time and explore those vast Forerunner structures – and it really is pretty damn special.

Anyway! That’s not the purpose of today’s piece, as the title attests. One other gaming property that’s been occupying both my time and my thoughts recently is Silent Hill, Konami’s formerly peerless psychological survival horror series. This is partly thanks to the release of Silent Hill: Revelation 3D (I really wish they’d stop using ‘revelation’ for everything, whoever ‘they’ are). I really enjoyed the first Silent Hill film; it absolutely nailed the look of Silent Hill, had a decent stab at the atmosphere, and though the story was a slightly mangled retelling of the first game, I felt like it was the only videogame adaptation to do its source material any semblance of justice.

So I was initially quite excited for the sequel. Trailers showed a film based on Silent Hill 3 (for those uninitiated, a direct sequel to the first game); there was protagonist Heather, looking exactly as she does in game, ditto Douglas Cartland, the PI that’s searching for her; there’s Lakeside Amusement Park, a location that features in both Silent Hill and SH3; even Claudia, the enigmatic, otherworldly-looking leader of The Order is present and correct.

Indeed, the film is positively rammed with fan service (the Seal of Metatron is a major plot point, and the producers even manage to shoehorn Travis Grady into the end sequence), yet it doesn’t make a good film. The pacing is horribly, horribly off, with one sequence that feels as if it might lead into something bigger, only for the film to peter out and end, seemingly prematurely. Worse still, dialogue is often incredibly poor, to the point where even blaming the work experience kid wouldn’t explain it, and some segments of the film are painfully cheesy – not what you want your audience feeling if you’re trying to create a sense of unease.

As I said earlier, I was initially quite excited for the film, yet I came out of the cinema feeling massively disappointed, and honestly a bit sad. It had a lot of potential from the first film to build from, as well as an excellent horror game to draw inspiration from. The final product was so poor that I honestly wish I could pretend it didn’t exist. It just seems such a waste, and I wish the possibility existed for it to be done all over again, only done well.

So, with that in mind, I got home on Hallowe’en night with two objectives; first, to put the terrible film out of my mind, and second, to enjoy something of quality with the Silent Hill name attached to it. The latter was easy to do, as the film at least had a uniformly great soundtrack, with the final credits rolling up to the sounds of a Mary Elizabeth McGlynn song – a voice that has been a large presence in Silent Hilldom since the third game – and another piece of music taken straight from the Silent Hill 3 soundtrack. So my first port of call had to be to listen to some of that beautiful, atmospheric music. This feature has been rattling around in my brain since then, and after grabbing a copy of Vita dungeon crawler Silent Hill: Book of Memories last week and discovering yet more excellent music, I decided to get it down on paper. So to speak.

Silent Hill

Silent Hill Theme
Akira Yamaoka

The song that prefaced a thousand nightmares. That opening jangly guitar riff sends a shiver down my spine even now, years after I first played the game. I re-played it recently on my Vita, in bed at night with earphones in, and the soundscapes created by series’ composer Akira Yamaoka have lost none of their potency – if anything, the sound design is more powerful when you’re enveloped in the game, as you are in the dark with earphones carrying the sound straight to your brain; there’s nothing to distract you from the oppressive atmosphere. This piece is the first example of a feeling that is threaded through much of Silent Hill‘s music – it’s not what you’d expect for a piece of horror media. Sure, it’s brooding, atmospheric and haunting, but it’s also subtly beautiful and possessed of a sense of fragility – perhaps befitting a series that’s as much about what’s going on within its characters as it is with what’s happening around them.

Silent Hill 2

Theme of Laura
Akira Yamaoka

This one may be more well-known than the theme of the original game. Theme of Laura, again by Akira Yamaoka, again displays similar themes to the previous track, but this one brings with it a massive helping of isolation and loneliness. What strikes me about this song is just how damn listenable it is; it feels sad, but not in a maudlin sense. It seems to me to portray a sense of both longing and tragic inevitability – fitting, considering the direction the story takes at its conclusion.

Silent Hill 3
Now, this one’s a little more difficult for me, as I’ve not played it in years (this will be remedied soon, as the HD version is near the top of my to-do list), so I’ve decided to go with the piece of music I mentioned earlier, the one that played over the end credits of Revelation.

Rain of Brass Petals
Akira Yamaoka

Another Akira Yamaoka instrumental piece, as far as I know this soundtrack entry doesn’t actually appear in the game at all. But what a fantastically evocative name for a piece of music. It’s another piece that displays those Silent Hill motifs of strange, restrained beauty and isolation, yet this one is of a more darkwave bent. It definitely has an end credits feel to it, as if it exists to solidify in your mind the thoughts and feelings of what you’ve just experienced – almost like a kind of aural bookend – so at least the music people of Revelation were doing their job. Like Theme of Laura, this is another wonderfully listenable piece of music, and I find it especially good to listen to at night with earphones for that added layer of atmosphere – it’s almost calming, in a rather dark sense.

Bonus round! Silent Hill: Book of Memories

Now We’re Free
Composed by Daniel Licht, vocals by Mary Elizabeth McGlynn

I mentioned earlier that Vita spin-off Book of Memories had an excellent title theme featuring series collaborator Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, and this is that song. The game itself may not be a shining example of a Silent Hill title – it’s certainly different –  but the song is Silent Hill through and through. I often find myself lingering on the title screen just to listen to this slice of lonely, atmospheric longing, and if a Book of Memories soundtrack is to be forthcoming, I’ll certainly be looking to buy it. It also puts my mind at ease that this piece was composed by Daniel Licht, composer of the Silent Hill: Downpour score. I’ve not yet played that game (it’s also near the top of my substantial to-do list), so my worries about the music have been suitably allayed thanks to this one song.

Where the series goes from here has many worried. Downpour didn’t exactly set reviewers hearts aflame (though some longtime fans have had better things to say), and many are dismayed at the direction WayForward have taken with Book of Memories. Hopefully, those that are sceptical for the future of Silent Hill will refrain from going to see the new film, as it may tip them over the edge. Personally, I’m enjoying the format of the Vita title, as it works very well for a handheld, and I shall refrain from ruminating on the series’ future until after I’ve played Downpour. I’ll also hope there are no further instalments in the film series – I don’t think I could take another Revelation.

Yet it’s hard to argue that the series hasn’t changed somewhat since Konami started farming it out to studios outside of Japan. Hopefully Downpour will surprise me, and bring back some of those uneasy feelings I enjoyed so much in the first three games (and to a lesser extent, Silent Hill 4: The Room). But for now, or at least once Halo 4‘s campaign is out of the way, I’ll stick to reliving my past in the relative comfort of Silent Hill 3.

As part of yesterday’s weekly PSN content update, a demo of WayForward’s Silent Hill: Book of Memories was made available for Vita owners. So, being a big fan of Konami’s psychological horror series, I decided to check it out…

Now, if I’m being honest, I’ve not been looking forward to this game at all, despite (or perhaps because of) my love for… well, at least the first four games of the series. Everything we’ve seen so far suggested that Book of Memories is a top-down, multiplayer, Silent Hill-flavoured hack n’ slash. I expected to hate it. So, after playing through the hour-long demo in bed last night (where else?), I was quite surprised to find that I actually quite enjoyed the experience.

You start off by creating your character build, choosing from a bunch of presets such as ‘preppy’, ‘goth’, ‘jock’, etc, and then customising their appearance. There’s not a massive amount of choice to be had, but perhaps that’s down to it being a demo. You can choose a stat-boosting symbol, name your character, and then the game begins.

It starts, as these things often do, with a cutscene. It’s your character’s birthday, and he or she is greeted at the door to their appropriately dingy apartment by a slightly creepy mailman, who proceeds to deliver a package to you… from Silent Hill. As he turns to leave, he wishes you happy birthday. How did he know..? Inside the package is a book, a book that contains detailed accounts of all of your character’s memories (hence the title, I guess…). Your character, being the typical horror-media chap or chapesse they are, is obviously curious about what might happen were they to rewrite their own memories…

Apparently, doing so causes you to awaken in the series’ Otherworld. The first thing that struck me is that, graphically, it doesn’t look anywhere near as bad as some of the screenshots we’ve seen so far would suggest. Granted, it’s not going to win any beauty pageants, but it’s perfectly acceptable; the rooms are decorated with an array of items and debris, and the lighting looks quite nice, with your torch occasionally throwing some nice shadows onto environmental objects. The music is also pretty decent so far, (actually reminding me of a dungeon crawler on Windows Phone called The Harvest), and I’m fairly sure the title theme is sung by Mary Elizabeth McGlynn. Either way, it sounds suitably Silent Hill-ish.

It soon becomes apparent that the game is essentially a dungeon crawler set in the Silent Hill universe, and while it probably wouldn’t be a vastly different game without the license, I appreciate the nods to Konami’s franchise on display here; The Order is mentioned in a couple of collectible notes, and Silent Hill 3‘s Valtiel pops up at the start of each floor to give you an extra mission to accomplish for rare loot. The basic structure revolves around exploring each floor, filling out the map as you go, battling enemies, collecting loot (such as ‘memory residue’, the game’s currency which is usable in the shops you’ll find on each floor), and finding your way to the challenge rooms that will grant you the items needed to complete the floor’s puzzle and progress onto the next one.

The Order is represented in some of the game’s discoverable notes.

Challenge rooms are fairly self-explanatory: you’re given a requirement to meet, and doing so rewards you with a puzzle piece (a number of which you need to collect to beat the puzzle at the floor’s end). Unfortunately, in this demo, all the challenges seem to be minor variations on a theme – that theme being ‘kill everything in the room’. You might have to accomplish that in a time limit, or do so without losing a certain percentage of HP, but killing everything is still the order of the day. Hopefully this will be expanded in the final game.

All this monster murdering brings me nicely onto the subject of combat. Well, it’s at least functional: you can hold either one small weapon in each hand (say, a knife and a pistol) or a large one (steel pipe, anyone?) in both hands, and you use them by pressing square or triangle, dependant on the hand. There is a rudimentary combo system, so the game tells me, but I couldn’t manage to get the timing right to string together more than two or three hits. Apparently, doing so activates… something. I don’t know what that something is, as I never managed it. Holding circle blocks, and also allows you to dodge with the stick, while the left shoulder button is used for enemy lock-on. As I said, it’s all very functional, and it’s mildly entertaining in a button-mashy sort of way. To be fair to WayForward, combat has never been a strong point, or indeed a design focus, of the Silent Hill series, and the ease of movement in Book of Memories makes it a less frustrating component. This being a dungeon crawler, combat also provides you with XP, allowing you to level your character, upping his or her stats as you go.

The character/stats screen.

I mentioned end-of-floor puzzles before, and at this stage they’re pretty rudimentary, offering challenges such as ‘put these four things in order of size’. The demo appears to offer the first ‘zone’ of the game, comprising two dungeon floors and a dungeon boss, which is essentially an arena battle against a massive, fire-breathing demon. Like the puzzles, the boss is pretty easy to fell, so I’m hoping progress through the game will yield more challenging puzzles and bosses, and more variety in the challenge rooms.

So, a Silent Hill dungeon crawler. Is it blasphemy to say “it works”? I don’t know. In general, I’m all for long-standing franchises branching out and showing a little variety (so long as it’s still enjoyable), and despite the fact that the genre of Book of Memories is so far removed from what we expect from the series, it does retain a little of that Silent Hill mystery. That is communicated most effectively by the ‘Forsaken Rooms’ – rooms that are at odds with the general Otherworld appearance of the rest of the dungeon that supposedly hold abandoned traumatic memories within them. These will only appear in single-player mode, and have three outcomes – neutral, dark and light. Your actions will determine which you get. There’s only one in this demo, and it’s not immediately clear what is going on, which makes me want to press on and find out more – usually the hallmark of a good SH experience, in my book.

Forsaken rooms offer a rare change of perspective.

Speaking more generally about single-player, it certainly has a degree of that typically lonely, somewhat-claustrophobic atmosphere that a good Silent Hill game has in spades, and exploring to fill out your map, while mechanically different in this version, is as engaging as it’s ever been. Obviously, this will all be somewhat diminished when playing in a party with others, and I think that’s where the majority of complaints will be focussed.

But as a lonely, single-player experience, I think this game might just work out pretty well. The structure lends itself to handheld play very nicely, and there’s just enough of the Silent Hill DNA threaded through this demo to justify the name on the box. Before this little sampler came along, my interest level in Book of Memories was skimming the baseline. Then the shopkeeper said, “They look like monsters to you?”

I might just be sold.

In a feature discussing the increasingly-prevalent raft of last-gen HD collections, Konami’s Tom Hulett has offered some reasons for the below-par quality of the Silent Hill collection.

Fans and reviewers alike have lambasted the efforts of Hijinx, the studio behind the HD ports, but now it seems they did the best they could with what they were given. As it turns out, what they were given wasn’t final release code from the original retail version.

“We got all the source code that Konami had on file – which it turns out wasn’t the final release version of the games! D’oh!” Hulett told 1up. “So during debug we didn’t just have to deal with the expected ‘porting’ bugs, but also had to squash some bugs that the original team obviously removed prior to release, but we’d never seen before.” He added that at one point, Silent Hill 3 protagonist Heather was blue!

While this helps to explain why the HD Collection is as poor as it is (and indeed, will probably take some heat off of Hijinx Studios), it doesn’t help with the perception that Konami doesn’t care about the Silent Hill property; would it really have been so hard for them to properly archive the source code for these games?

There may be a light at the end of the tunnel however, provided your console of choice is connected to the internet. “After our initial patch, I played through Silent Hill HD Collection armed with righteous indignation and Internet complaint threads,” said Hulett. “I made a list of every issue I could find. Hijinx is hard at work addressing as many of those issues as is feasible given our resources.”

It could be argued that the game should never have launched in the state it did, but that’s academic now. Hopefully Hijinx will be able to patch the game up to the standard Silent Hill fans expect.

Vita survival-horror title Silent Hill: Book of Memories has today suffered another setback.

Originally slated to launch alongside the Vita in February, the game was put back to March, to take part in Konami’s ‘Month of Madness’ and be released alongside Silent Hill: HD Collection and Silent Hill: Downpour. However, just days before it was due on shelves, retailers changed their dates to May 31st, with Konami later simply confirming it had been put back, with no new date given.

Now it appears the same has happened again. Destructoid today noticed that the release date had changed yet again on Amazon, with the online retailer touting an October 31st launch for the game. Konami later confirmed a delay to IGN, and at least this time confirmed the month, stating:
“We’ve targeted an October release date for Silent Hill: Book of Memories, but we have not announced a specific day.”

Now, I’m almost tempted to say this is a bit of a blow for the Vita’s sparse release schedule, but… does anyone really care about Book of Memories? I know I don’t. I’m a big fan of the Silent Hill franchise, and I can’t even manage to muster an illusion of enthusiasm for it. It’s not that it looks particularly bad, but a Silent Hill entry that’s a top-down, multiplayer isometric shooter? Really, Konami? Who asked for that?

Fans needn’t worry…

It’s possible that a few more months in development might be just what Californian developer WayForward Technologies needs to turn Book of Memories into a high quality game, but I can’t see that happening unless they either change the genre or unchain the title from the Silent Hill IP.