You know what is cool?
They’ve always been pretty cool but for a large stretch of the first decade of this millenium, most people were claiming the genre was dead. This wasn’t the case, adventure games were being made but they just weren’t mainstream. Thankfully though narrative focused adventure games have permeated the gaming general public again and every year we get a handful of great ones.
Three years ago Read Only Memories successfully fulfilled its Kickstarter campaign and released as a Windows, Mac, Linux, and Ouya title. Since then the game has added full voice acting and rebranded itself as 2064: Read Only Memories releasing on nearly every modern platform. But it wasn’t until now that it hit the Nintendo Switch.
The Switch version of ROM is 2064: Read Only Memories INTEGRAL brings all the previously released content for the game and the “Punks” side adventure. Despite loving adventure games, and having heard about Read Only Memories before, I had yet to play the game. And now I’m wondering why it took me so long to do so.
Diluting it down to the basics, ROM is a noir-cyberpunk mystery. Set in the near future in the city of Neo-San Francisco, ROM paints a hauntingly relevant picture of big corporations controlling everything. After a mundane evening reviewing a new set of headphones, the player character goes to sleep and wakes up to an intruder in their apartment. That intruder is Turing, a highly advanced robot (ROM).
Most ROMs are dumb subservient robotic assistants but Turing is programed with an amazing new artificial intelligence. So when his creator, Hayden, is attacked, Turing escapes and seeks help. Knowing that the police may be compromised, Turing analytically examines Hayden’s contacts and comes upon the player character as the best chance to discover the truth.
This set me and Turing on a city spanning adventure that like most sci-fi stories, expands in to something more than it initially seems. Sci-fi and fantasy have long been conduits for social commentary and 2064: Read Only Memories INTEGRAL is no exception. The core of the story is an examination of identity and it does this via some subtle, and not-so subtle touches.
Playing the game today, in the political climate that we are seeing in many parts of the world, its story feels very relevant. And knowing that it came out before the events of Brexit and the 2016 United States presidential elections, it actually feels like an unheeded warning of where society was heading.
While I can easily recommend the game to fans of point and click adventure games, there are some quirks with it that didn’t necessarily work for me. For one, I found Turing’s voice, done by Melissa Hutchinson, to be absolutely annoying. Turing has the most dialog in the game by a large margin and if you end up finding the voice off-putting it can feel grating. Another big quirk was the game’s weird puzzle difficulty curve. It goes from being a pretty simple point and click affair to having a few puzzles in the back half of the game that felt out completely out of place from the rest of the game.
But small quibbles aside, the overall narrative and the lessons behind it are the real reason to play it. Add in a cool retro look and awesome soundtrack and 2064: Read Only Memories INTEGRAL on the Switch is something special and certainly worth playing.
This review was written with material provided from the developer for the Nintendo Switch and co-published on Critically Sane.