Posted on Thursday, June 13th, 2013 at 5:30 PM by Oliver Smith
This conceptually engrossing tale of morally questionable science is a sensory delight to be admired, despite a technically underwhelming set of core mechanics.
Following the exploits of memory hunter Nilin, Remember Me is an exploration of questionable morality amongst scientific wonder. Starting out with a bad case of amnesia initially seems like a burdening cliché, but given the nature of the high-concept theme, it’s appropriate. The essential hook is that memories can be implanted, extracted and remixed at will to manipulate individuals. Naturally, the company responsible for such evil-genius, Memorize, are using it to socially manipulate society and must be stopped. Ultimately, the central thread of Nilin’s adventure to both stop them and rediscover herself, becomes a secondary concern; such is the splendour of the surrounding world.
Set in NeoParis in the year 2084, the game depicts the duality of a bourgeois society. Within this brutal dichotomy of a divided society, the rich benefit from the spoils of excess, whilst the poor suffer desperately in slums. The game’s events almost replicate the actions of the French revolution, all the way down to a slightly less barbaric storming of The Bastille. Revelling in subtexts of social hierarchy, suppression and financial elitism, the tone is admittedly heavy, but never in a way that pushes the narrative to drop pace. Treading over the question of scientific discovery and moral responsibility with equal delicacy, Remember Me poses genuinely interesting scenarios in relation to a tricky subject matter.
If nothing else, Remember Me paints an utterly masterful portrait of a neon-draped future, to both admire and respect. Continuously evocative throughout, the title uses a dynamic implementation of colour to draw the eye and attack the senses in a manner that is highly engaging. Casting the eye on a fixed point is near impossible, as Remember Me demands attention at every corner of the illuminated screen. Further adding to the sensory attack is the wonderful soundtrack, which is made up of the kind of pulsating beats that have become synonymous with futuristic sci-fi.
Remember Me belongs to a rather odd gathering of video games, in that it’s an odd mix of narratively fascinating content and functionally sub-par mechanics. Stubborn in its structurally regimented design, the title barely ever shakes from the ironically uncreative constructs it repeatedly plays out in. From the outset, Nilin’s futuristic adventure is incredibly repetitive, as it mixes between platforming and combat sections, over and over. Fortunately, a concise run-time means the structure never becomes too much of an issue, but it does begin to feel stagnant come the eighth and final chapter.
Platforming itself is functionally adequate in serving its purpose as a display mechanism of NeoParis. As Nilin climbs, the camera frequently pans out to show the area of the city in which she is situated and in doing so, elevates the sense of scale. This much is needed, as the game feels very narrow throughout, thanks to a very tightly kept linearity, which plays as an odd contrast to what feels like an expansive city just out of reach. Although the choice to keep the game this way ensures that the needed focus is maintained from start to finish and is a sign of intelligent resource pooling from developer DontNod Entertainment.
The combat is inescapably underwhelming. Its initially obtuse and overly complicated explanation is far from accessible and serves as a poor platform for the game’s most frequently used mechanic. With a plethora of title specific terms such as sensens (combos building buttons), Remember Me is awash with simple concepts that are unnecessary complex and thus, are difficult to engage with during early proceedings. Despite this, the fully customisable combo system ensures that a level of forethought is required during the games latter stages. Hit combinations can be reordered to regain health, reduce cool down periods for special attacks and can also increase XP, creating a system that can be tweaked for player preference. This adds a layer of depth that, were it not so obtusely explained, could of gone some way to helping add to a severely lacklustre combat system.
In truth, Remember Me’s reliance on the usage of combat highlights a trending issue within the industry as a whole: an overreliance on violence when it is not always relevant. Not every story needs to be told using conflict as the central mechanism to drive it forward and Remember Me is a stark example of such a game. Fortunately in this case it doesn’t detract too significantly from the experience, but it does illustrate the fact that this narrative doesn’t really benefit from the red stuff, as many others don’t.
Remember Me crafts a world throughout its narrative that will linger in the mind for many years to come. A neon-soaked modern dystopia encases this cerebral sci-fi tale that engages throughout. And although a sub-par set of mechanics set back Nilin’s adventures, it’s never enough to dash this from being distinctly individual and most of all, memorable.
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