Read Only Memories: Neurodriver

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Read Only Memories: Neurodriver review


Point and Click Visual Novel


What does it mean to lose your memories? Without your memories, do you cease being you? Without your learned lessons, life experiences, and survived traumas, who are we? If the wound is forgotten, does the scar matter? These are a lot of weighty questions that no piece of media can truly answer, but Read Only Memories: Neurodiver ( I'll refer to it just as "Neurodiver" going forward) makes an interesting attempt.

Neurodiver is set in a cyberpunk world, where genetic manipulation is the hot topic of the time. It's certainly divisive, with some very much against gene manipulation and spreading false information (like a fabricated story of a frog woman laying hundreds of eggs), and the people that are for it think that people should be able to do what they want with their body. You play as ES-88, her real name being Luna, an Esper (someone with psychic abilities) who has been genetically modified to psychically link with a man-made creature called a Neurodiver. A Neurodiver is a worm-like creature created for the soul purpose of 'diving' into peoples memories.

Okay, with all that set-up, how does it look? If you're into retro anime and have a penchant for pixel art, then do I have a game for you. All of the new characters are wonderfully designed and the returning characters look just as good, or even better, than before. Luna, the main protagonist, is bright purple, due to her genetic alteration, and stands out next to the already colourful cast, which is good since she's easily the best character here. She's as bubbly as she is determined, and I was instantly charmed by her. The colours are vibrant and poppy, really lending itself well to the 80's anime aesthetic. Each chapter you get an area to explore, but unfortunately there's not really any that stand out, except maybe the last one, but that's a bit spoilery.

In the previous game, 2064: Read Only Memories, the gameplay was much more rooted in the point and click genre, heavily influenced by Hideo Kojima's 1988 game "Snatcher." Neurodiver is a more streamlined adventure, still having a point and click aspect to it, but feeling more like a visual novel. If you're unfamiliar with the term, a visual novel is more like reading an interactive comic book, where story takes a precedent over gameplay. There can be limited gameplay in a visual novel, and where you draw the line on the amount of gameplay allowed to be considered a visual novel is purely subjective, but there is an argument to be made with Neurodiver. The gameplay consists of searching a small area to find clues, and then use those clues to help recover memories. It's a bit of rinse and repeat with some dialogue options thrown in.

The simple gameplay doesn't wear out its welcome, however, mainly due to the games short runtime. Clocking in at roughly 5 hours, Neurodiver is about half the length of the previous game, and that feels more of a negative than a positive. The game ends right when the narrative really starts to pick up, and although you're given a solid resolution, it leaves one feeling... unfulfilled. Neurodiver really feels like it needed a few more chapters to flesh out it's character and world, and to really make it's story more poignant.

Short, but charming
Neurodiver held my interest thoroughly for it's short 5 hours, and charmed me with its new characters and exciting story, but it didn't really leave a similar impact as the first one. It needed more time to really sell its ideas. If you're a fan of 2064: Read Only Memories, approach this more like another story in the world rather than a full fledged sequel. If you're new to this series altogether and you like cyberpunk anime from the 80's and don't mind simple gameplay, then give Neurodiver a shot, it's worth it for the characters and story; if it sticks in your memory, only time can tell.

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fun score


Characters, World, Story


Short Length, smaller scope than previous game