To say I was excited about getting my hands on Dontnod’s Remember Me would be an understatement – a serious one. I was in love with the concept of the game, and couldn’t wait to give it a whirl. Unfortunately, as fun as the game was at times, it just didn’t live up to my expectations.
Remember Me takes place in futuristic Neo-Paris, a dystopia where memories have become a commodity. People store their precious memories in backup hard drives, while choosing to forget the painful moments in their lives. This world has crack heads/junkies as well, called leapers, who have essentially OD-ed on memories and amnesia to the point where they become zombies (and my least favorite enemies in the game).
You play as Nilin, a memory-hunter whose memory has been wiped. She is an Errorist – awesome pun on the French pronunciation of terrorist, as well as your activity of causing glitches and errors in the system – and is determined to regain her memory. Guided by a voice in her head, Edge, Nilin engages in a sequence of activities to try to bring down the evil corporation, Sensen, which is behind the whole memory abuse thing. Along the way, you’ll find out about experiments on people, fight a variety of enemies, and figure out that you have issues with your parents.
My favorite parts of the game were the Memory Remix sequences. At these points, you delve into people’s memories and change them in strange and intense ways. You have a goal in each one, but failing can be interesting as you get to watch what could have been if a few small details were changed. It is mostly a process of trial and error, but a very entertaining one, and actually gets its point across quite subtly – our whole lives are just a sequence of coincidences that could have been radically different with only a few changes.
Otherwise, Remember Me has some very overbearing morals throughout. It starts with the 1984-esque approach: whoever controls the present controls the past, and whoever controls the past controls the future. Also, we get some all out philosophical pondering of the idea of constructed identity – without our memories, we do not know who we are or where we’re going. All very interesting stuff, but unfortunately expressed without any subtlety. In fact, each chapter begins with a relevant quote from (primarily) French philosophers and literary minds. I loved the quotes, but it makes the whole thing feel a bit heavy handed.
While I enjoyed the game on the whole, I must say that aspects of it were very repetitive and over explained. The platforming (which I normally find very difficult) was made particularly easy with the bright orange arrows explaining where to jump next – it’s as if the game is built for people who are perpetually lost. No worrying about if the ledge is too far, or if you are lined up properly; Nilin seems to have some super power when it comes to jumping from ledge to drainpipe to railing. As long as you vaguely point her in the right direction, she’ll land where she’s supposed to (with a few exceptions). Oh, and if she doesn’t land and you plunge to your death, you will respawn with full life a short distance before your jump of death so you can try again. I am in no way, shape or form a proficient platformer, and yet I managed to get through the entire game with only three spots where I was briefly stuck. For the most part, you just follow the arrows and admire the scenery as you go.
The fighting is also pretty forgettable, using a combo system similar to the Batman franchise but without the variety. The enemies are either numerous and irritating or slower but stronger. Armed with punches and kicks, you eventually gain S-powers, specific abilities to deal with particular enemies/situations. You can create combos in your Combo Lab, but the actual button combinations are already set – you simply decide whether punches and kicks will deal major damage, regenerate health, cool down your S-powers or multiply previous effects. Once you have unlocked enough attacks, you’ll probably end up with dedicated healing, cool down and power combos – making you rarely (if ever) reenter the Combo Lab again. Successful combos make the music play, but otherwise are boring. No special flourishes – just more damage or regeneration. At the end of major boss battles, you can expect the usual QTE (quick time event) hell – press the buttons at the right time, and everything will be okay.
I had fun playing this game, despite these problems. I was curious about the plot and wanted to see what they would do with the story. I also hoped that the characters would be developed; I really wanted to understand what made Nilin become a memory hunter in the first place, and what drove all her friends, too. I also loved the world of Neo-Paris – it was putrid and unique. I wanted the opportunity to explore!
I happily played this for almost 10 hours straight (the time needed to complete the campaign). I was intrigued by the story, interested in the characters, and found the game play to be easy enough to navigate in order to move through the storytelling. Unfortunately, there was just a lot more to the world that I wished I could have seen. Without any open world elements, or even a map to give a sense of where I’d been and where I was going, it ended up feeling like a very forced, linear environment. I felt let down by the ending, which somewhat tainted my experience. Like a movie with a completely wrong ending (here’s looking at you Knowing), Remember Me is undermined by its simplistic explanation of this incredible dystopia. Also, there were cool NPCs who never got more development, making them feel like stepping stones instead of aspects of this strange Neo-Paris (where, by the way, people have very odd accents).
If you’re a fan of platformers (but not challenging ones), want some strong morality and philosophy in your games, and are willing to trudge through boring combat in order to get to some (read: four) Memory Remixes that are a lot of fun, then give Remember Me a whirl. I hope this game gets some expansive DLC so that I can see more of the world that they created – I’d even suffer through the combat system and platforming to see it!