TL; DR(eview) - 2064: Read-Only Memories is a smart, well-told story that addresses neo-futuristic themes, not commonly found in the medium. Making a lot out of a little is the real boon for Midboss, as so many of the characters in this short point-and-click adventure game are given more depth than those you might find in 100-hour epics.
I first saw 2064: Read-Only Memories on the PlayStation Experience 2015 show floor. The game had already been released on Steam but they were showing off an eventual port to the console. The booth admittedly caught my eye with comfortable bean bag chairs to sit in and relax while playing the demo, and I’m a sucker for the pixel-art look the game evokes. Not typically one for point-and-click adventures, I was fascinated by the subject matter (political and social landscape of a new-future “Neo-SF” with regards to artificial intelligence and genetic modification) and was determined to keep the game on my radar. So I followed the game’s twitter feed and would at least walk by the game’s booth when I’d see it at various shows throughout the last year.
The game is a political science fiction story. You are a journalist, scraping by a living by writing tech reviews from your shitty little apartment. One night, about a week before Christmas, a ROM (Relationship and Organizational Manager/robot) named Turing arrives asking for your assistance in finding their creator, who they believe has been kidnapped. Turning is a special ROM, designed as the world’s first sapient machine. You and Turning team up to try and track down Turing’s creator and uncover what’s going on in the digital landscape of this futuristic San Francisco.
The game fits the mold of point-and-click adventures or visual novels. You work to solve the mystery by traveling from location to location and talking with the wide array of characters in Neo-SF. Various items can be picked up and added to your inventory, then to be used in some light logic puzzles. The solutions to these puzzles all felt pretty clear, with nothing feeling so obtuse that I was scratching my head thinking, “well how the hell does that make sense?” A handful of the key characters you interact with throughout the game will gauge your interactions with them. Befriend and support them and they’ll help you in the end-game. Offend them and they won’t. This leads to a handful of alternate endings of the game that you may or may not want to explore so creates a variety of different save files (the game frequently will remind you that it does not have an auto-save system) might allow you to replay certain sections without the need to start all the way from the beginning.
Unsatisfied with simply porting a copy of the game to console, the team behind 2064: Read-Only Memories managed to bring together a wide array of industry voices to lend their talents to the cast of characters. Melissa Hutchinson is the star of the show, bringing the same level of youthful earnestness to Turing that she brought to Clementine in Telltale’s Walking Dead series. Austin Creed (WWE wrestler and noted gamer), Jim Sterling and Dan Rykert (games media personalities), and a host of Telltale regulars like Erin Yvette, Adam Harrington, and Dave Fennoy all lend their voices to the game’s cast. This probably played far more of a role in my decision to stick with the game than I even realize. The original demo I played was text-only and I remember thinking I might be too easily distracted without something to really keep me invested. And I think that actually getting to hear these characters, portrayed with a wide variety of tones and inflections that simply wouldn’t have resonated as a text-only adventure, went a long way helping me connect with them on the journey.
If you enjoy point-and-click adventures/visual novels, 2064: Read-Only Memories is definitely a worthy addition to the genre. If you’re like me and don’t always connect with those games but you like science fiction that focuses on the moral and ethical ramifications of an ever-increasing technological society, I would highly recommend exploring this story and the philosophical points that the team at Midboss confronts. I subscribe to the belief that oftentimes the most powerful pieces of art are those that hold up a mirror to society and reflect the world we live in. This game nails that philosophy for me so it was right up my alley, even if the genre isn’t one that always resonates with me.
2064: Read-Only Memories is available now on PlayStation 4, PC, Mac, and Linux. With future releases planned for Xbox One, PlayStation Vita, and Mobile.