We're going to have so many cool things in the future. Robots, flying cars, VR implants, the sky is the limit. 2064: Read Only Memories presents an interesting version of the future that I can only hope isn't too farfetched. Naturally, it's not perfect and it has its own mysteries hidden away. Is it worth diving in and exploring this future, or should these memories just be deleted?
In Read Only Memories, you play as a journalist who lives in a rather crummy part of Neo-SF where you work reviewing technology for just enough credits to get by. One night, a robot named Turing, the first fully sentient AI, breaks into your apartment begging for help. His creator Hayden is a friend of yours, and he has been abducted by people who broke into his apartment. Turing needs help finding Hayden and the people who kidnapped him. What follows is a cyberpunk adventure where the two of you wander around Neo-SF finding leads, making acquaintances, and trying to solve the case of Hayden's disappearance, along with a couple of other interesting subplots that come up along the way.
As a visual novel, Read Only Memories is going to live or die on its story and characters. Thankfully, it's rather strong in this area. The mystery behind Hayden's disappearance always managed to entertain, keeping me guessing about who was involved and how to find them. The game also introduces a few interesting subplots. The biggest one, which ties into the main plot very nicely late into the game, involves people finding published news articles and blog posts subtly edited to make them appear more hybrid and cybernetic friendly. It's an interesting story thread that has all sorts of possibilities and implications, turns some of the game's themes on its head, and works its way into the main thread in a natural and well-written way.
Carrying you through the game is a group of characters that is a fantastic blend of unique, strange, and memorable. You'll spend most the game with Turing, who has such a fun personality that I couldn't help but smile most the time he was on-screen. He's a funny robot, one that's hilariously bad with computers but has a love of Bob Ross and taking care of plants. It's great, and I couldn't help but laugh nearly every time some new personality trait of the robot was revealed. It's not just Turing that was making me smile. Punk kid "Starfucker" kept me entertained with his overbearing attempts at being manly, Charlie Nova's vanity and lack of self-awareness was always worth a laugh, while Detective Lexi Rivers is both a professional cop and a doting friend worried for your safety and manages to blend the two in a natural way.
There're so many good characters that thinking of the few bad ones is kind of a bummer. One character, who I can't go into great detail about due to spoiler territory, spends most the game off-screen to the point where you may only ever get a single scene with him depending on your choices. Late in the story, Read Only Memories seems to want to use the character like a late game plot twist, but the whole thing feels as if they just wanted a weak last minute excuse for something kinda shocking. I do believe it leads to some of the best scenes of the game, I just wish it didn't happen in such a weird way. The other character I took issue with was Human Revolution leader Brian. He starts off as a reasonable counterpoint, trying to argue that maybe gene-splicing and brain-integrated VR is a step too far. Then without warning a couple chapters later he becomes this goofy KKK-like figure boasting about how he helped enact laws that let people deny home and jobs to hybrids. It felt like there was some in-between step from "reasonable" to "radical" that got left out there.
New to the 2064 version is voice acting, one of the biggest additions. The voice acting is almost all really good, with most of the main characters having well-acted lines that convey the proper emotion. Melissa Hutchison is particularly great as Turing, making me care more for the robot that I already liked quite a bit. While all the main character work is fantastic, a few of the one-note NPCs suffer both from bad voice acting and poor audio quality. Every time you enter a bar a bouncer greets you, but the clip sounds like it was recorded by a confused man on a subway using his cell phone. The guest stars are all basically hit or miss: Zoe Quinn and Austin Creed both do good jobs and I wouldn't mind seeing more of them in other games, but I'm not entirely convinced Jim Sterling or Dan Ryckert should keep getting voice acting roles. If the voice acting really bothers you, or if you're just not interested in voice acting in general, the option to shut it off is available in the menus, though I personally would keep it around for the main cast.
There are times where you'll break away from talking and advancing the plot to participate in various puzzles that are mostly of a hit or miss quality. Trying to stop an escaping taxi cab by blocking off pathways at traffic lights is interesting, serving as a good break from conversation that tests your ability to work out puzzles. An end game puzzle that saw me trying to avoid a killer android was the highlight of the game, managing to be both genuinely spooky and full of tactical decisions that kept me on my toes. On the other hand, trying to match up drinks to vague flavor descriptions to try and woo bar patrons is less exciting, and this sequence felt like it was specifically made to be an awkward trial and error sort of thing that's less about solving a problem and more about pouring through seemingly endless piles of drink descriptions in the hope of finding a match to their tastes. It's not fun, mostly just there to waste time and I couldn't help but wish this puzzle got cut in the update.
The more the game advanced, the more I was kind of baffled by the time waster puzzles and trial and error sections. In one section, I had to help a up-and-coming singer write a song. He would make rhymes and I would either have to suggest lines that would go with his rhymes or give him relevant items that would match up with the tone. At one point he needs a word that rhymes with "tones" and my first thought was to give him a pair of headphones. The game actually acknowledged this as the "obvious solution" to the point where it even awarded me a trophy for doing it, but the singer fumbled the line and declared this to not be what he's looking for. Instead it turns out I'm supposed to give him a box of donuts because he'll confuse them for scones and make the rhyme. How are you supposed to figure this out? By basically tossing everything at him until you find the answer. Moments like these serve no purpose other than to block the advancement of the story, which is a shame because it's a story I was really enjoying.
Read Only Memories' art style was interesting to look at, a good callback to games such as Snatcher. Character design was a highlight, each character looking unique in some way, weather it be Turing's constantly changing face in his glass head, to Tomcat's ridiculous hair, to Jess' always twitchy cat ears. The soundtrack was also usually on point, and I enjoyed taking in the music while I was playing the game. It fits well, and I could find myself tapping along to it after I was done playing.
I've never been a huge visual novel person, but I was drawn into the world of 2064: Read Only Memories thanks to its wonderful characters and interesting story. While some of the gameplay segments had me smacking my head against a wall because they're not fun, and there's some characters and moments that fall flat, overall there's a great story that's well worth following.
2064: Read Only Memories is a fantastic update to the original game that tells a noteworthy story with some great characters supported by mostly good voice acting. There are just a few sour spots that drag down the game and stop it from connecting like it should.
- Interesting Story
- Fantastic Characters On The Whole
- Great Puzzles
- Most Voice Acting is Wonderful
- Small Story Missteps
- A Pair of Poorly Written Characters
- A Few Annoying Puzzles
- Some Voice Acting Drops the Ball