Science fiction can oftentimes transport us to romanticized futures where inequality and tolerance is just as ubiquitous as despair and social justice. Rarely, however, is science fiction bravely pertinent, let alone emotionally effective as I found in 2064: Read Only Memories. Originally released on PC back in 2015, by developer Midboss, and later released for PS4, Xbox One and PS Vita. Now on the Nintendo Switch as 2064: Read Only Memories INTEGRAL, it translates admirably to the console with a digital art book extra, redesigned puzzle sequences and different control methods.
First off, the presentation is excellent in 2064: Read Only Memories as it takes place in this futuristic advanced time period, but displayed with retro graphics. The portraits of the characters you talk to are well done and successful convey their emotions and dialogue despite being simple looking in the actual scenes. I really appreciated the added video theater for the Switch version that allows you to re-watch cutscenes and view content from behind the scenes.
The soundtrack of Read Only Memories perfectly captivates and enchants the setting. From the opening that welcomes you to neo-San Francisco, to the main theme song; the music is a highlight and is very catchy. It’s the type of music I would expect to hear in a cyberpunk setting and adds to the experience. Th cast of characters are also well voice-acted with almost everyone having fully voiced dialogue., with the highlights being Dave Fennoy and Melissa Hutchinson who also worked on The Walking Dead Telltale series.
Read Only Memories takes place in the year 2064 in the cyberpunk city of neo-San Francisco, with many companies fueling the cybernetic revolution with the relationship and organizational manager robots (or ROM’s for short). They’re advanced robot assistants that follow commands given to them by a master. While the majority of the world has openly adopted the wonders that technology has brought to the human race, a small group of people known as The Human Revolution have begun to protest the technology uprising. Their goal is to fight for the preservation of humanity in a world that lets humans model themselves with robotic parts and even splice themselves with other species for looks and to cure diseases.
It’s in this world that you play as an up-and-coming journalist that reviews technology products as a freelance occupation. One fateful morning you’re woken up by a confused Turing who comes looking for your help. Your friend Hayden has seemingly gone missing in what seems like a perfectly orchestrated kidnapping by a company he works for. Through a series of events you come across different NPC’s and characters that help you on your journey, and they range from an old accomplice to a hybrid human that’s fed up with the government.
A highlight of 2064: Read Only Memories story is how incredibly socially progressive it is. There’s openly gay men of many different ethnicities in this world and the story even opens up by asking you what sexual orientation you’d like to be identified as. The story addresses themes of racism, stereotypes, civil rights, and prejudices without them being about a person’s skin color or ethnicity. Instead, they’re portrayed through the increasingly controversial use of robotics and experimentation with humans. It was fascinating to see themes like this tackled so overtly, but the developer tended to dwell on them too much at times.
The narrative, although interesting at times, was still predictable in its outcome with a weaker finish after all the build up leading to the final events with the protagonist and Turing the ROM robot. I found the best part of the story to be the cast of incredibly well done personalities. Each of the characters felt unique and the voice acting was spot on in execution, and added to the vast lore of the world that is so different from ours.
The gameplay in 2064: Read Only Memories is structured like classic adventure titles of the past. There are two screens where the gameplay occurs with the bottom being dedicated to dialogue text and the top half being focused on the visuals, plus on-screen action. The left side shows the character you’re currently speaking to or world actions that you can perform in a scene. You use the analog sticks on your controller to hover over interactive objects and select them. When selecting a character or object, you can investigate, use a speak to option, or use a different item that you have in your inventory. It’s very similar to point-and-click adventures of the past only Read Only Memories seems less challenging and obtuse in puzzle solving.
2064: Read Only Memories feels like a combination of both a point-and-click adventure game and a visual novel. Oftentimes you’ll spend much of your time reading long conversations between the characters, especially when you’re questioning a new character for information. In these moments it feels more like a visual novel as you can spend minutes in one specific area learning about a new character.
When investigating rooms to try and find a certain clue, you’re interacting with objects like an adventure game while occasionally solving a puzzle. The puzzles for the most part aren’t too challenging, with you maybe just having to find a memory card or finding the correct flavor of a drink for a character you want to talk to. I really had no difficulties with the puzzles and it was nice not having to worry about getting severely lost at certain points.
Overall, 2064: Read Only Memories INTEGRAL successfully tells a compelling narrative about modern social issues in a futuristic setting. The story was somewhat predictable, but was helped by an excellent cast of characters and soundtrack. I never had trouble with the gameplay, and I think avoiding the obtuse structure of most classic adventure titles was a great choice to make players not feel intimidated. If you’re a fan of point-and-click adventure titles or visual novels, you can’t go wrong with Read Only Memories.