Delays, delays everywhere! BioShock Infinite, Tomb Raider, the South Park RPG from THQ, and Itagaki’s Devil’s Third (also from THQ) all got hit by delays in the past few days. And Devil’s Third might not make it out the door entirely. Man, it’s like video games take a lot of hard work, time, and money to make or something.
Silent Hill: Book of Memories got hit by a second delay during this Great Delay Wave. Konami pushed it back without telling anyone — its second time being so stealthy. All the other game delays were publicly announced, so it’s odd Konami keeps taking the not-telling-your-parents-about-that-math-test-you-failed route. It works for a couple of days, then your teacher calls home. Or Destructoid and the rest of the Internet checks the game’s Amazon listing.
Since I got to play an early build of Book of Memories last Fall at an event held by Konami at Beats by Dr. Dre in Soho, Manhattan, (where I also got a look at Downpour and the unfortunate Silent Hill HD Collection), I figured I’d say a bit about what the version I played was like, and perhaps shed some some light as to why it’s been pushed back again (this time to a more fitting October 31 release date).
So, Book of Memories is a PlayStation Vita title in development by WayForward, the studio behind Aliens: Infestation for Nintendo DS and BloodRayne: Betrayal for XLBA and PSN. They usually take on projects associated with long-running franchises, like Aliens and BloodRayne, and Contra, Thor, and other licenses. The Internet goes crazy over them, but as I confess in my BloodRayne review, I see WayForward as the card sharks in the “Almost Got ‘Im” episode of the Batman Animated Series. Charming, but they… fall short. It was a matter of time, I suppose, until they franchise-hopped to Silent Hill. As you can tell by looking at screenshots, Book of Memories has little to do with previous games in the survival horror series.
Most notably, it’s not a survival horror game. It’s played from a top-down perspective in an arcadey, Gauntlet-like dungeon-crawler fashion. It also has little to do with previous WayForward games. WayForward’s biggest strength, charming 2D spritework, is nowhere to be found here. It makes sense to go for 3D graphics in a Silent Hill game, but the graphics quality wasn’t exactly spectacular in the build I played. This was evident in the amateurish menu design and character customization as well. Visually, Book of Memories resembled a middle-road iOS game, not a $40 PlayStation Vita game.
I spent a decent amount of time with the demo, mainly doing the same thing over and over, going from room to room, defeating indecipherable creatures and gathering keys to unlock more rooms. I kept playing to try and find the main “hook” to the game, but I wasn’t finding it. It seemed pretty standard. Creating a character from scratch provided a tiny bit of satisfaction — I got to give a goth girl a stovepipe hat. There wasn’t really much else to customize. Characters came in pre-set templates and “personalization” amounted to giving them accessories like… hats. Hrm.
Cooperative multiplayer is supposed to be a feature, but I didn’t have anyone to play with at last Autumn’s event. The company rep there only had one PS Vita for everyone there.
Daniel Licht, who composed the music for Downpour, apparently returns. I couldn’t discern any specific tunes in the noisy area I was playing, but his involvement can only be a boon. He did a good job continuing the same flavor of sound series composer Akira Yamaoka established for the series.
Supposedly, past Silent Hill characters will return, though it’s unknown in what capacity. Pyramid Head’s a shoe-in, for sure. He’s like Stan Lee appearing in all the Marvel movies at this point. But I don’t know what good it would do, to have Harry, James and Heather involved in a game so unlike previous games in the series.
Eventually, I grew tired playing the demo. I got lost — there was no map or indication of where I was or where I had to go; the game suffered from Every Area Looks the Same Syndrome — and handed the PS Vita off to another journo. Months later, I’d find the game’s been delayed a bunch of times. And with good reason. It wasn’t ready, not nearly. It wasn’t fun, there was nothing to it. It didn’t take advantage of the PS Vita’s power or capabilities, nor was there was any way it could justify being a $40 retail title in a time when cheap, digital releases offer far more fun and visual quality for a fraction of that price.
There was no way it was going to make its March date in that state. Or its June date now that we know it’s been pushed back a couple seasons. What’s more, there hasn’t been a new scrap of info or anything since the Soho event. It’s only been nebulous release dates and silent delays from Konami. Hardly encouraging stuff.
With the complaints lobbed at the glitchy, unfinished HD Collection (still waiting for those game-fixing patches), the Silent Hill series is yet another legacy franchise in hot water at the moment. We can hope Konami and WayForward use this long delay to turn Book of Memories – and the franchise’s reputation — around. And maybe all this playing it close to the chest stuff could work out well. It worked for Downpour.