The sea is a great many things to a great many people. For some, it represents exploration - the ability to see new sights and live new experiences. For others, it is death, decay, and where all things one day go to die. A Memoir Blue asks "How do we reconcile our feelings when both of these are true?" and it does it surprisingly well.
In true Annapurna fashion, I rarely knew fully what was going on while I was playing A Memoir Blue but this is part of its charm. You start the game and the joy of playing it comes from peeling back all its little intricacies. Labeled as "an interactive poem," A Memoir Blue is a lot more than it lets on. You play a diving champion, reflecting on her relationships, career, and life so far.
You have to interact with all the little things that pop up on screen and figure out what exactly the game wants you to do with them. Sometimes, you merely have to click on the right place. Others, you have to stamp a ticket, peel back a photo, or explore an interactive map.
In a way, there are some comparisons you can draw to the likes of "What Remains of Edith Finch". There's a burning sense of creativity in every action. Though not all sections are as interesting as the last, it managed to hold my attention still for the hour or so it took me to finish it.
A Little Too Short
This short playtime is indicative of the story it is trying to tell. It's not overwhelming complex but it touches on experiences that feel oh so familiar. In it, you see a mother who is overworked and a child who is overachieving - both inevitably lead to their own burnout. These are simple emotions that cut deep in their playtime.
Our central character is left both isolated and fulfilled by their career and hobbies and this is an ultimately difficult thing to manage. How can we comprehend when our biggest strength and most obvious weakness lie in the same place?
Although the short playtime leaves some of the story untold, A Memoir Blue has a very consistent sense of design. The music, visuals, and gameplay click together and work towards the central atmosphere. With the entire game structured around our main characters' shaky relationship with water, it manages to fit exploration and drowning together in surprisingly thorough ways.
Unfortunately, though, this sometimes leaves the game feeling like a slideshow of atmospheres. When the gameplay starts to feel particularly unique or interesting, we sometimes lose threads of what holds everything together.
A Story In Need of More
In this sense, A Memoir Blue is a game that feels like it could do with a little more. Its rapid-fire approach to game mechanics leaves the story feeling emotionally resonant with a little less depth than I would have liked.
With so little dedication required to make it through, the entire journey feels a little unearned. It feels like I witnessed just a snippet of a life's story but the game tells me I should be happy with what I've received. I can't say I am, even if there's so much to love.
Its wonderful visuals and music kept me going, even when it failed to characterize as much as I would have liked. Splitting the visuals into separate chunks of the game, it manages to weave different styles together wonderfully, representing points in our character's life and the way they see the world.
As you get older, your heightened perceptiveness of the world leaves you clamoring for the time when you saw it with a little more magic. The magic of the liminal space in between these two ideas is soundtracked perfectly with a touching score.
Where the music is at its best is when it captures that silence after a tense period. Piano, synth, and violins ramp up the atmosphere, only for the light sounds of rain to bring you back down. It strikes a town that absolutely nails the subtle emotionality to nostalgia and processing your own trauma and history. Sometimes, noticing something is gone is when everything is at its clearest. Sometimes, the music is at its loudest when it is quiet.
A Memoir Blue - Verdict
Memories are a funny thing. Though they may cast you back to a better time, that contrast only leaves you feeling more hollow than you did before. A Memoir Blue grasps this feeling with both hands and never lets go. Even though I wished it could have gotten to a deeper, more fulfilling place, there's something a little special about the journey itself. Sometimes, the journey is enough.
TechRaptor reviewed A Memoir Blue on PlayStation 5 with a code provided by the publisher. The game is also available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.
- Great Visuals
- Emotionally resonant storytelling
- Interesting gameplay mechanics
- Story left a little unfulfilled