It's a well-known fact that memory is an unreliable source of information. With the right triggers, we can be convinced to remember something that didn't happen or to omit something that did. Despite this fact, we often rely on memories to help us navigate the world around us. Such is the subject of French developer The Moon Pirates' latest project Don't Forget Me (stylized as dont_forget_me). It's a narrative adventure game in which you must delve into the memories of those around you in order to foil a massive government conspiracy. I took a look at the Steam demo to see if this experience is truly as unforgettable as the name suggests.
In Don't Forget Me's opening sequence, we're introduced to Fran and Bernard, a pair who run a "memory copying" clinic in a cyberpunk future city. Clients - or "patients", as Bernard refers to them - come to the clinic to have memories copied onto a system drive for preservation. One day, a particularly intriguing client enters the clinic. He's a member of the Forgotten, a rebel group working against a government that wants to unify human consciousness. It's up to Fran and Bernard to work with the Forgotten and take down the government conspiracy memory by memory.
The demo I played only lasted around fifteen minutes, and the setup was pretty rushed. I could have done with a little more time to get to know Fran and Bernard and understand their personalities before watching them make the biggest decision of their lives. Still, their dynamic is set up fairly nicely; Bernard is the irascible genius and Fran is his snarky foil. Unfortunately, there's some very clunky and stilted dialogue that simply doesn't feel natural. It's hard to identify with the characters when every other line doesn't sound quite right. It's a shame because their relationship is warm and full of potential.
The central gameplay conceit of Don't Forget Me is a memory interrogation system not entirely dissimilar to something you'd see in a Phoenix Wright game, albeit a little more sci-fi. Each client has a web of memories that you must untangle via a charmingly old-school PC interface. By typing in keywords related to the client's emotional state, appearance, or recent life events, you can slowly begin to understand why they're in your clinic and what they're really about. It's a mostly intuitive and satisfying system that makes for some very clever eureka moments.
That system is let down somewhat, however, by the aforementioned dialogue problem. You're relying heavily on Bernard to explain to you how to navigate each web, but his sentences are often stilted and difficult to parse. The keywords can feel frustratingly unclear, too. Sometimes, Don't Forget Me is lenient and accepts multiple keywords for puzzles. Other times, it'll only take one word. If you mess up, you'll need to re-enter the previous word to see the text crawl so you can remember which words you haven't tried. If you're stuck, that can feel very irritating.
Don't Forget Me does have a lot going for it, though. Despite the occasional gameplay and dialogue wobble, the setting is strong and evocative. Of course, it's nothing you haven't seen before in other cyberpunk properties - most notably, perhaps, the slightly underrated 2013 action-adventure Remember Me - but it works. The central conceit of delving into people's memories not to rearrange them but simply to find out what they're actually thinking is a promising one. If Don't Forget Me explores the idea of unreliable memory later into its narrative, it'll be something special indeed.
There's a little way to go before we get there, however. At the moment, the memory system is just too finicky and undercooked to carry a game by itself. The Moon Pirates need to do a little work on the dialogue to make sure it sounds a bit more natural. Narrative adventure games depend entirely on their dialogue and storytelling methods to see them through, and if those aspects are undercooked or faulty, the game will suffer. The brief demo is an enjoyable look at what Don't Forget Me could offer, but some work is needed on the key systems before it's ready for prime time.
Don't Forget Me Preview | Final Thoughts
The Moon Pirates' narrative adventure is brimming with untapped potential. Memory remains an exciting subject for the interactive nature of video game storytelling, but there's arguably no game that has nailed an ideal way to express that theme through gameplay. That could be Don't Forget Me's role. If it's going to get there, however, then the developers will need to take another look at the dialogue and make sure the memory keyword system isn't frustrating to navigate. Doing so would elevate Don't Forget Me from an ironically forgettable if interesting experiment up to a must-play.
TechRaptor previewed Don't Forget Me on PC via Steam as part of the Steam Game Festival.