Read Only Memories and VA-11 HALL-A (pronounced Valhalla) were two games that caught my eye on Steam a while ago. The art style for both had my attention with an aesthetic that I love. The two games even reference each other throughout, using easter eggs or characters and left me impressed. Read Only Memories gets an upgrade in the form of 2064: Read Only Memories for PlayStation 4 and PC and I’m glad to see it available for more platforms (with even more coming soon) because it is quite the experience.
Read Only Memories takes place in, you guessed it, 2064, in a world where human augmentation, genetically modified hybrids and ROMs are the norm. ROMs are relationship organisational managers. You play as a journalist trying to make ends meet. Your friend Hayden has disappeared and his ROM, Turing, comes and finds you by breaking into your apartment to tell you the news. This is where your adventure begins. I’m surprised at the depth characters have, and there are so many NPCs that you will grow to love or hate throughout the chapters.
Interaction with objects is done in two ways on the PS4. You can use the touchpad as a trackpad for a cursor or use the d-pad to switch between highlighted objects in the current area. Unlike most games in the genre that just have you select an object to interact, you have multiple options here. You can see, touch, talk to, or use an item on almost everything. This results in some hilarious dialogue when you try and talk to a plant on the street or try and touch a drink in a bar–it seems as though the developer has thought of everything.
The way you interact with people and how you respond to them is a big factor in deciding which ending you get. If you are nice to people, you get a certain ending while being rude to others is a necessity to achieving another ending. I’ve gotten four endings so far and will be going for the platinum trophy later on. There’s just one problem with replaying this game–the lack of a proper text skip option. I’m used to having conveniences like skip all text in visual novels or games with lots of dialogue. I hope a future update adds this because it gets painful going through some of the dialogue multiple times.
There’s more to 2064: Read Only Memories than just text. You have the city of Neo-San Francisco to explore, and more locations open up to you on your map as the story progresses. Locations can be multitiered, allowing you to branch out and try and talk to inanimate objects to your heart’s content, like I did. Using random items on others is also fun. I’m pleased with how there are almost no situations where the story progression is locked behind some stupid in-game flag that requires you to interact with every object in the room. Some chapters even have a few puzzles in them that are varied, but a nice touch–I wish there were a few more though.
Like I mentioned earlier, the art caught my eye immediately. I love the retro aesthetic and the use of purple and pink colours in the interface. Character models and animations are slick and even minor NPCs are unique. The environments are detailed and colourful while remaining consistent throughout. I really like how the DualShock 4 controller light changes depending on who is talking.
One of the big new additions to 2064: Read Only Memories is voice acting. MidBoss got an eclectic cast of people to voice characters and it is mostly hit or miss. Some characters sound perfect while others sort of break immersion. If you aren’t a fan of the voice acting, there’s an option to turn it off and stick to the sound effects when text is being displayed for dialogue. It is hilarious listening to characters respond when you select the dialogue option that is obviously meant to piss them off. I purposely went with picking the worst options in my first playthrough. The audio design by 2 Mello is great–not only is the soundtrack absolutely worth buying as soon as you finish the game, but the little interface sounds and other effects fit perfectly with the aesthetic.
The controls take a bit of time to get used to because there’s no real controller customisation or even display. You have to figure things out by trial and error. I assumed you’d be able to use the analog stick as the mouse cursor but that isn’t possible as of the current patch. There is also the lack of a save prompt after each chapter. Having a warning that the game doesn’t autosave should be replaced with a prompt to save instead.
My experience hasn’t been completely pleasant though. One room required a password on a terminal and the input for said password was invisible barring numbers. I had to do some trial and error with an invisible keyboard to input the password to progress the story. One of the puzzles near the end is also really annoying. I was annoyed when I did it on Steam a while ago, and it is still pissing me off on PlayStation 4. I hope the keyboard bug is fixed soon because I’m not sure if most people will try randomly pressing the D-Pad and X to enter text when nothing is visible. The save files also seem to be displaying the wrong time for me as of version 1.01.
2064: Read Only Memories is a very special game. It is rare when so many things work so well together. You could spend a while just cycling through the drinks menu at the bar before talking to the bartender who has no idea how to make them. What other game lets you make fake passports, talk to a bear, give a rapper lyric advice, and get rick-rolled by a ROM? I only hope MidBoss can sort out the bugs and maybe tweak the puzzle near the end a bit, to help make the experience even better.
Great cyberpunk adventure
Lovely pixel art visuals
Voice acting is inconsistent