Read Only Memories Review - Old School Adventure

Angelo M. D'Argenio | 6 Jan 2016 15:00
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You can't get through the game simply by being a nice person all the time. Some people will respond to you negatively and take your niceness as insincerity. You have to make a read of everyone you come across, which feels like real noir-style detective work. You have to consider each character's history and motivations in order to respond to them in the most effective way. You CAN fail in conversation either by pissing someone off, or wasting their time, and doing so cuts off dialogue branches that you otherwise would have had access to. You can't simply follow every dialogue path from the first option down, which can be frustrating, but also gives a sense of urgency to the game's discussions.

Most of the time the writing is on point, giving you plenty of different choices to express your personality. However, sometimes it forces you to go through dialogue paths where you only have one choice. It was never clear whether or not this was because I had already screwed up and locked myself out of other choices, or if the game was simply railroading me.

Read Only Memories loves to bring up current day issues. Alongside genetics, technology, and human identity, which go hand in hand with all cyberpunk, it also brings up issues like, I kid you not, ethics in games journalism. It also talks about the difference between games as art, games as sport, and games as distraction. There are a lot of other issues that get tied into the plot as well, from the dangers of social media, to human rights, to drug abuse, ethics of advertising, and the rise of internet business.

And you'd think that a game that openly sells itself on its diversity would also bring in issues like gay rights or trans rights or whatever, but it actually doesn't. While, yes, there are gay and trans and half animal characters in this game, it goes out of its way to not be preachy and not make these single pieces of identity the whole of a character's being. It ties in nicely to the game's detective work motif. You can't treat people like stereotypes because then they'll think you are an asshole. You have to dig deeper to get any useful information out of them. Sometimes this means being sympathetic to their struggles, while other times it means supplementing your friendship with a steady supply of whiskey.

You see, Read Only Memories feels familiar. If you have ever been to San Francisco, the futuristic world of Neo-San Francisco will have you feeling deja vu. While you maybe never had to track a series of murders to uncover a global conspiracy, you probably have had a friend who had a falling out with their parents, or one with relationship troubles, or one who was a big anime geek, or that one friend who just wanted to take to the streets and get into fights. These are the people you talk with over the course of the game, and it's what makes the game's conversations feel so organic. It makes a world where cat girls are real and people can jack their brains into the net feel like home. And as you respond to these familiar situations, Turing, your new robot companion, is observing you, growing, and taking on a personality of their own.

There are a couple other flaws to mention. Sometimes the game can get bogged down in science jargon. Sometimes you fall to the wayside while Turing handles most of your problems. Sometimes the point and click interface of the game has a weird delay to it. But these are nitpicks in an otherwise solid game. If I were to describe Read Only Memories in one word, it's relevant. It's a game that makes us think about social issues, and what it means to be human, in ways other games are afraid to. And that's exactly what good cyberpunk is supposed to do: Make you think about our world by showing you a vision of the future.

Bottom Line: Read Only Memories is a fantastic cyberpunk game whose biggest strength is its writing.

Recommendation: Fans of point and click adventure games, Telltale games, old Sierra games, Snatcher, and cyberpunk in general will love Read Only Memories. Those who dislike reading for extended periods should give it a pass.

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