2064: Read Only Memories Integral Review - Approaching Artificial Humanity
2064: Read Only Memories Integral is an enhanced version of the original Read Only Memories that was released on various platforms back in 2015, with the new version including exclusive content for the Nintendo Switch in the form of the "Punks" side story.
Read Only Memories has been drifting between platforms through a series of incremental changes and updated editions and titles since it first released in 2015, but now it seems the game has finally reached its final form with all intended tweaks and content on the Switch. It's a narrative-focused cyberpunk adventure game very reminiscent of classic PC adventure games in the vein of Snatcher or the Gabriel Knight series.
With the game seemingly finalizing its design with 2064: Read Only Memories Integral, has this quirky yet contemplative adventure game finally found its true home on the Switch?
Let's see if this game can pass the Turing Test.
What's So Integral About It?
Read Only Memories' story is a thriller mystery centered around the player character - a struggling part-time journalist in NEO-San Francisco who is suddenly visited in the night by a prototype sentient AI named Turing. Turing informs you that his creator, your friend Hayden, has suddenly been kidnapped by an unknown assailant. You vow to aid Turning in solving the mystery of Hayden's abduction, and in the process become embroiled in the underground world of hacking, sinister corporations, and the growing tensions between the population of hybrids and the so-called "human revolution" that threaten to overflow.
The story is held up by a cast of diverse and interesting characters, who range from soft-spoken hackers from the deep south to catgirl civil rights attorneys - all of whom have well-defined personalities and plenty of memorable lines to help cement themselves in your mind. The story has a bit of a slow start compared to what comes after it, though it does do a good job of establishing the universe and the tone for the rest of the game.
The scale of the world feels rather small through the eyes of your character, but you still manage to get a grip on how big the issues affecting the world are. All the characters feel like necessary components to the story rather than just incidental NPCs with no bearing on events.
This scene in particular really got to me.
Read Only Memories Or Just Read Only?
There's very little I can say about Read Only Memories without spoiling the mystery or any of the stronger character moments, but that may also be because there isn't much to talk about in terms of gameplay.
Everything in the game involving presentation and writing is strong, so I cannot fault the game much for that. The pixelated graphics aren't the best I've seen, but they're still solid and represent the era of PC gaming that the game is replicating well, and they're as colorful and as expressive as they need to be for the world to feel alive and reactive.
The sound design is quirky and suits the often spontaneous tone of the game's writing well, and is used especially well when timed for comedic moments. The soundtrack is catchy as hell from the start, and the voice acting is genuinely fantastic, with every character delivering a strong performance.
The actual moment-to-moment gameplay, however, is where the game falters because there's just not much of it. Games like Ace Attorney, Gone Home, and VA-11 HALL-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action have stripped back or simplified gameplay in a game in order to promote a stronger emphasis on the story, but the gameplay segments are much more frequent.
The majority of the time I spent with ROM was spent listening to every single option in a veritable national park's worth of dialogue trees in order to progress, and more often than not all you're expected to do is continue listening.
This wouldn't be much of an issue if it weren't for the fact that a lot of the game's dialogue is rather heavy on explanation and exposition. Tech-talk and elaborate back-stories are expected in a cyberpunk setting, but the flow of the dialogue alternating between normal conversation and tech-jargon was rather clunky at times.
While this is a pretty cool way to explain the details of a dollar-store laser gun, text walls like this pop-up fairly often, and it can be a bit overwhelming.
At times it was difficult to pay attention to the story because my eyes would glaze over when the screen would fill up with components, people and places and it would just be too much to comfortably digest. It was by no means something that ruined the story for me at all, but it was a pace-breaker a lot of the time. The story was at its best when the characters were just talking like normal people (or ROMs), and whenever they would switch over to "important backstory" mode there was an occasional grinding of gears.
Is it Worth $20.64?
Overall, I enjoyed most of my time with 2064: Read Only Memories Integral, but I feel as though it could have done a bit more to actively engage me as a player rather than a viewer. The presentation is solid, and the voice acting and writing can both be pretty great, but my attention and interest in the story dipped more than once when it felt as though there wasn't much actively demanding my input.
The few mini-games included are nice little diversions - and the world does naturally unfold and expand into an interesting setting full of equally fascinating characters, but it just wasn't quite enough. The experience couldn't have been anything but improved by adding in more typical adventure game puzzles and interactions.
Hunting around the screen to find this memory card wasn't super exciting, but it still engaged me in a different way than just sitting there listening.
If you're looking for a story based game that's more engaging than a visual novel, maybe look elsewhere. You get a complete campaign that'll last you around 9 hours on top of the "Punks" side-story and all the gallery materials for the cute entry fee of $20.64, so it's a safe investment if you're looking for value.
If you're mainly interested in the story or setting and don't care as much about the gameplay specifics, then, by all means, check it out. With some slight adjustments Read Only Memories could have been a great game, but as it stands, it's just good.
2064: Read Only Memories Integral is available now for Nintendo Switch.
[Note: The copy of 2064: Read Only Memories was provided by MidBoss for review.]