They say the human brain is the world’s most powerful supercomputer. It contains information like any other computer, and like any other computer, there has to be a way to hack it. In Remember Me, developer Dontnod’s first game, that’s exactly what the Memorize Corporation has not only figured out how to do, but also how to monetize.
The premise Remember Me alludes to is downright frightening. A huge corporation that has standardized the purchase and implantation of memories directly into people’s brains, complete with people who are addicted to them and have become strung out and ironically forgotten by a society that literally can’t forget, and someone like Nilin, the game’s lead, who can not only hack your memories, but remix and replace them. The foundation for an incredible game is there, but Dontnod fails to fully realize the world they crafted.
Nilin begins her journey suffering from amnesia. She nearly has her mind completely wiped before Edge communicates with her through her Sensen Terminal (the small digital port on the back of everyone’s necks), presenting himself as an ally and guiding Nilin out of danger. Edge is ever-present, as he’s the leader of the group of Memory Hunters (called… Errorists…) Nilin was once a part of prior to her capture, and guides her to each new objective. Nilin follows along under the assumption she’ll be able to regain her own memories while achieving her and Edge’s common goal: taking down Memorize.
Remember Me tells a tale that raises questions about ethics, segregation, and morality, but Dontnod doesn’t take it far enough to become immersive. In fact, every time the narrative threatens to become truly intriguing, it pulls back. It’s a shame too, because some of these issues are practically begging for elaboration. The characters are treated the same way; we’re teased with motivations and brief backstories, only to be left hanging. I found it telling that so much great information about the world and characters were hidden away in collectibles that most players won’t find or read.
Set in 2084, players will be funneled through Neo-Paris. The city has two distinct segments: one for the well-to-do and wealthy, and one for the lower class citizens and dregs of society. No matter where you are, this game looks amazing. The lower half, in particular, completely needs the downtrodden, grimy look and just feels like the unfortunate living situation that it’s illustrated to be. With such a beautiful, interesting world, it’s unfortunate that we’re unable to enjoy it because Remember Me is so linear.
As you’re being funneled through areas, you’ll frequently encounter enemies that need to be defeated in order to move on. Remember Me seems to take cues from Arkham Asylum, as the combat is a sort of freeflow system that allows Nilin to cover ground quickly and gracefully while executing uninterrupted combos that you get to customize for personalized mayhem. The button presses themselves are set in stone (there are literally five combo strings), but you are given access to modifiers called Pressens to add more damage, regain health, or reduce cooldown on special attacks. You’ll need to make full use of each type of Pressen, too. One type of enemy damages you when you attack it, and most bosses will require multiple uses of your special attacks. Without using your Pressens, those battles have the potential to be long and frustrating. Thankfully, you can access and change them at any time.
You also get a little gun called the Spammer. It’s kind of awkward to use and impossible to link into combos, but it’s required for certain enemy types. There are a few interesting enemy types in the game, but at times they can border on frustrating. Enemies that can only been hit under certain conditions are especially annoying, as the combat just doesn’t have the precision needed to pull them off flawlessly. In one situation, for example, you’re fighting multiple regular enemies while trying to use your Spammer to turn on the floodlights to allow you to attack the special enemies that are only vulnerable in the light. You can dodge, but sometimes it’s hard to discern when you should or where the attack is coming from because of all the action on the screen. I also had some issues with my button inputs not being registered, causing some dropped combos and missed chances at dodging. Infuriating when it happened and worth noting, but it was infrequent enough to not become a major issue.
Although the fighting is flawed, it’s still a lot of fun. Probably the best part of it has nothing to do with the combat itself; the music you fight to is phenomenal. The music changes during the fight based on how well or how poorly you’re doing. If you’re on a roll, the music becomes more intense. When you get hit, the tempo drops. Remember Me‘s music is great overall, but nothing compares to that responsive battle music. Brilliant.
When you’re not doing battle or platforming, you get the opportunity to delve into people’s minds and perform Memory Remixes. These only happen at certain plot points, but they are by far the most intriguing feature Remember Me has to offer. In these segments, you have to move through a memory to reach a specific outcome. You’ll watch the original memory happen, then you’re given the objective. You can rewind or fast-forward the memory freely, looking for glitches to occur and single out interactive objects. Change something (or several things), then play the memory forward to see if you achieved the desired outcome. This alone could have carried the game, and it feels like a crime there are only four such sequences. There are a few non-Remix puzzles toward the end, and they feel horribly out of place by comparison.
Remember Me takes on multiple features and stuffs them into one linear adventure, but fails to take any one of them far enough to stand out. Each one would have been strong enough to support the game on its own, yet it feels like Dontnod didn’t fully commit to the idea of any, resulting in a good game, but not a great one. With no world to roam and no additional modes to play, Remember Me reaches a satisfying conclusion, but what you’ll remember it for is what could have been.
Available on Xbox 360 (reviewed), Playstation 3
Buy: Purchase Remember Me from Amazon
Full disclosure: I purchased this game for review. I spent approximately 15 hours with it, completing the game twice.