As a struggling journalist living in the futuristic Neo-SF area, your life pretty much sucks. Your apartment is run down, with walls and milk alike sprouting mold, and you can barely earn a living reviewing the latest budget tech. The computer you peck away at is a figurative dinosaur. Nearby lies a stack of blank paper; a constant reminder of the book you’ve always wanted to write, whose progress is indefinitely halted by whatever excuse feels the most believable. You’ve also somehow managed to murder a succulent in your spare time. You bastard.
It’s cool, though. Things are about to get worse.
Hayden, an old acquaintance and important A.I. research figurehead, has gone missing shortly after creating the world’s first sapient Releationship Organizational Manager (ROM). ROMs are commonplace in 2064, handling mundane tasks and basic clerical duties, but Turing, Hayden’s Bob Ross-obsessed ROM, has the power of choice, the ability to think and act independently, and he’s chosen you (because complicated algorithms and stuff) to assist in his investigation.
2064: Read Only Memories is mostly a visual novel, wherein you’ll find yourself engaging in numerous conversations and selecting between an appropriate list of responses. Depending on your choices, characters act accordingly and relationships develop (or crumble) as the story plays on.
The game itself is made up of a fully inclusive cast of characters, be it transgender, non-gender specific, homosexual, and even gives the player the ability to choose their own gender pronouns (and diet!). Anyone from all walks of life can enjoy this hopeful glimpse in to a future where these lifestyles are more commonplace and widely accepted. It’s beautiful that Read Only Memories never acknowledges a character’s gender or sexual preference in a way that’s surprising, nor is it ever a central focus for their own story arcs. These characters are just well written, full of life and personality, and exist.
Jess, a cat-girl, defends “hybrid” rights by day as a lawyer, but spends her evenings at Stardust, the local club. Majid, a Pakistani immigrant with a criminal background, now tends the bar with his boyfriend Gus. There’s also TOMCAT, an incredibly invaluable hacker with a southern drawl and the raddest hair in the game. My favorite duo, however, is Oli and Chad; two misguided youths that couldn’t be any different from one another. Oli, a tech-savvy anime nerd, is the yin to his boyfriend’s aggressive street punk yang. Chad also demands to be referred to as Starfucker, and while I’m usually not a fan of assholes that go by their own given nicknames, I found his raspy Beavis voice endearing.
If you’ve reached this point of the review and feel that maybe you’re not the game’s target market, don’t let it dissuade you. I, a 35 year-old straight white male, found plenty to relate to and fully enjoyed the narrative on display. Good writing is good writing, and great characters are great characters. Have an open mind and give it a chance!
Breaking up the story bits in 2064: Read Only Memories is a basic point-and-click function that represents the investigation portion of the game. Using the d-pad (I ignored the touchpad support altogether), you’ll pick and choose objects and/or people in the environment to interact with. Some items can be stored for later use, but there weren’t any standout puzzles or narrative roadblocks that required more than a few minutes to suss out. Typically what you need to progress can be found within the same room, and your next objective is always clearly displayed on the map by a blinking exclamation point.
Some of the puzzles were also broken from a technical standpoint. One in particular required the input of an alphanumerical password, but the letters on the in-game keyboard refused to display themselves. After backing out and giving it another go, the keyboard corrected itself and I was able to continue on with my investigation of Hayden’s disappearance. According to a promising Twitter reply by developer MidBoss, this is a known issue that should be corrected in an upcoming patch.
Elementary point-and-click methods aside, there’s a few shape matching and shooting mini-games sprinkled in that made the game feel a bit more adventurous, but didn’t serve as anything more than an unobtrusive distraction. Sure, they failed to stand out against 2064’s well-written narrative and character designs, but they didn’t get in the way of the storytelling (yay!).
That being said, I was always more interested in the goings on of Read Only Memories when it was a visual novel, not an adventure game. Not that the adventure aspects failed in any regard, they just didn’t present the challenge that I find desirable in more traditional offerings within the genre. The objective was always clear, but I still enjoyed the clever text replies that came from my attempts at making conversation with inanimate objects or purposefully using the wrong items to solve puzzles.
2064: Read Only Memories’ retro aesthetic features a plethora of well designed panels and character portraits, bursting with colorful vibrancy and futuristic cyberpunk tones. What also assists in selling the experience is the game’s inclusion of voice acting, which was initially absent during the game’s PC and Ouya release in 2015. This upgrade not only features professional voice actors like Dave Fennoy (Batman: Arkham series’ Lucius Fox, World of Warcraft’s Vol’jin, among many other roles) and Melissa Hutchison (The Walking Dead’s Clementine), but notable members of the gaming community like Giant Bomb’s Dan Ryckert, Jimquisition’s Jim Sterling, and WWE Tag Team Championship record holder *slash* Up, Up, Down, Down host Xavier Woods (under his YouTube name Austin Creed, babyyyyyy).
Although the quality of the acting is inconsistent, not from a delivery standpoint but the quality of the recording as a whole, it was still neat hearing the voice of unapologetically nerdy pro-wrestler Xavier Woods and game critic Jim Sterling. It was a little jarring speaking with characters who sound like they recorded their dialogue inside of a tin can using the embedded mic on their laptop, but for the most part the voice work is solid and really added depth to the characters.
It’d also be pretty fucking criminal if I didn’t applaud rapper 2 Mello (check out Chrono Jigga and their Wu-Tang Clan/Final Fantasy VI mash-up albums, stat) and their fantastic sound composition here. Every track helped build Neo-SF and its futuristic setting, set the mood and shifted emotion along with the current conversation, and never felt out of place. The bleeps and bloops are smoothed out and wavy, giving it that 80’s future-past vibe that worked so well in Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon.
The overall experience lasted just shy of 8 hours, which I broke up in to three different play sessions. It became my nightly ritual, plopping down in bed in my pajamas, tucked under my Legend of Zelda blanket, and sipping a hot ass tea while trying my damnedest not to spill it on one of my three cats. Read Only Memories felt like reading a good book, much like any well made visual novel, and nothing makes me sleep better than story time. Except alcohol.
In all seriousness though, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Turning, TOMCAT, Majid, and Cha–er, Starfucker, and I’m already playing through the game a 2nd time to make different choices and check out the different endings. It may be light on the adventure side of things, but the visual novel presentation, beautiful pixel art, delicious sound design, and some truly fantastic characters made for a memorable experience that I’m still pondering days after completion.
I need a plush Turing.
So where’s the final score? There isn’t one. I spent a lot of time conveying my opinion in the above text, and I hope that’s worth more to you than some arbitrary number or a sequence of shaded-in star shapes. Basically, I’m not a fan of scores so I no longer use them. Read the review and judge for yourself if the game is worth your time and money.
Full disclosure: This review was done using a PS4 copy of 2064: Read Only Memories that was provided by the game’s developer, MidBoss. While I’m sometimes given games to review, I pride myself on providing unbiased reviews to fellow consumers, along with constructive feedback to hard working developers and publishers. Whether or not I pay for the game is completely irrelevant.