What would you do if someone offered you the power to upgrade your memory? No, not the digital memory on your computer, your actual living memory. What would you pay for the ability to back up everything you had ever seen or experienced? Would you trust your deepest darkest secrets to a machine in order to protect them from loss for an eternity?
Welcome to a world shaped by Sensen. Paris, 2084. Initially marketed as a revolutionary memory sharing and retention device, the Sensen is now commonplace amongst the residents of Neo Paris. Despite its commercial routes, the memory sharing capacity of the devise has had some unexpected, and in some cases catastrophic effects on the lives of the users. Aside from transforming a substantial portion of the population into insane memory junkies, it is also responsible for creating a commercialised monopoly over the memories of the people. The power to delete, alter and share memories has caused great divide within the city leading to political unrest, extreme poverty and rebellion.
It is here that we join Nilin, and ex-memory hunter who has just had the misfortune of undergoing an extensive memory wipe. Waking in the high security prison at La Bastille with barely trace of her true memory, she hears the call of a rebel group named the Errorists. After claiming her as one of their own, her new found comrade Edge tells her that she was imprisoned for her crimes of rebellion and is widely feared for her skill as a memory hunter. Devoid of her true memory and unsure of who to trust, Nillin must now undertake a dangerous journey to re-discover who she is and put an end to the chaos created by the Sensen once and for all.
The gameplay begins deep below the smog of Neo Paris, as Nilin gets right into hunting down the secrets of her lost past. Despite the sprawling cityscape around you this is not an open world game. Instead we follow Nillin on her set path, searching out new secrets as new information is recovered. Solving the mystery of her lost past is not going to be easy, and exploration of the city is inter-mingled with combat, puzzle solving and boss battle action.
The varied cityscape of Neo Paris provides Nilin with some perfect excuses to brush up on her Memory Hunter Parkour skills. From picturesque cafe lined streets, to the desolate remains of the abandoned metro in slum, 404 your quest to uncover the truth behind your memories will frequently take you from one extreme of this city to the next. Eager to avoid detection, your journey through this futuristic dystopia will have you not only negotiating towering buildings, but also dodging electrical panelling and even chancing your luck as you shimmy over dangerous scrolling advertising billboards.
Though the mix of urban decay, futuristic architecture and Parisian style contained within cityscape itself is undoubtedly beautiful, the platform gameplay itself is actually quite linear. You can climb, but only within the limits of where the game wants you to go. I couldn’t help but dismay at the lack of interactivity in some places. At times natural curiosity coupled with the design of the city would prompt me to look into the distance wondering what was just beyond the horizon, only to find my path inexplicably blocked by something as simple as a kicked over trash can acting as a barrier. It is frustrating to feel fenced into a game, and more so when the fences are strikingly visible and at times simply make no sense. Despite this frustration Neo Paris is a joy to look upon, and lets face it, a trip to Paris provides a refreshing change from being stuck in yet another variation of London or New York.
As Nilin starts to piece together pieces of information from her lost past her combat skills start to improve. Using the Combo Lab system contained within her Sensen device Nilin can piece together new elements of combat which when combined create new combos and moves. This system works by unlocking Pressens, single button commands which can be joined together to create much longer combos. The Pressens fall under several categories, each category having a different set of attributes. The value the Pressens add to your combos varies, for example some Pressens allow you to regain a little health upon completion of a combo, whereas others allow you to extra damage or to reduce the time between attacks. These Pressens can be combined in multiple ways to give your combos different results, and though the changes are at times quite small they do make a difference overall.
Though the type of Pressen in a combo can be varied freely, the actual order of the button presses in each combo is fixed. Despite making the combos easier to remember, this does limit the customisation making it easy to become locked into the routine of one or two combos and to not explore the system in full. The length of the combos available also varies dramatically, with the larger combo chains often offering the best results. In certain situations when surrounded by enemies it can get tricky to execute a large combo. At these moments using one of Nilins specialist powers such as Sensen Dos to stun large groups can really help, as it allows you extra time to focus on an individual enemy for the takedown. Overall the combo customisation is enjoyable, even though it probably could have benefited from a little more diversity.
As well as the standard hits and combos Nilin has a series of ultra powerful special moves. These high power moves work on a timer system, and can only be used once the timer has finished counting down. These moves have varying effects and are often specific to certain enemies. Find yourself surrounded by multiple enemies? Use Sensen Fury to unleash a chain of attacks giving higher than usual multipliers. Attacked by pesky invisible Leapers? Use the Sensen Dos to Stun the elusive attackers and bring them out of hiding. My favourite special attack however has to be the Logic Bomb, which when activated creates a digital blast radius large enough to knock a room full of enemies off of their feet. Though these moves are very effective, the more powerful the attack the longer it takes to recharge so it’s good to get a few time reducing Cool down Pressens into your combos early to make the time between attacks fly.
As well as the fury of her bare fists, Nilin is also equipped with a kind of futuristic digital stun gun called the Spammer. This digital device can be used in combat to cause damage or knock climbing enemies off of the walls, as well as to overload electronics and activate hard to reach switches. The Spammer also has a more powerful attack that enables you to blast tricky obstacles out of the way, making it a useful tool in navigating blocked off areas of the city. As with most good things the Spammer is not unlimited, and you must wait for its cool down bar to refill before you can attack again. It is however also extremely useful against robot enmities as its ability to overload electronics is often far more effective than a well timed punch to a metal face.
It is not combat skills alone however which makes a true memory hunter. One of Nilins more unique skills is her ability to reach inside the heads of the people around her and alter their memories to suit her will. This skill is used throughout the game when a situation becomes critical, and adds what is for me the most interesting element to the gameplay. When remixing a memory Nilin is thrown back in time to a critical point in the characters history. Upon viewing the scene she can then re-wind the events that took place searching for points of influence that she can alter in order to change the outcome of the event, and thus alter the targets future memory of what took place. The process of rewinding a scene often gives you multiple options of things within the scenario that can be changed. To keep things interesting everything you choose to change can have different effects on the scene, meaning that it can take several rewinds with several different outcomes before you get it right. Once you have successfully altered the past memory you will re-join Nilin in Neo Paris where the future memories of the target will have changed to reflect your work. This memory alteration process not only adds something unique to the storyline and gameplay, but also raises a whole host of moral questions which really make you think about the consequences of your actions. It’s as if you suddenly have the power to play God, to reach into people’s lives and probe the darkest depth of their memories for your own questionable purposes. I found this part of the game wonderfully intriguing, distressingly grim at the same time well worth all of the combo mashing and wall climbing it took to get there.
Alongside the memory remixing Nilin is also able to take memories directly from others. These memories can either be freely given by her allies, or cunningly stolen from her enemies. The memories of others provide her with everything from valuable secret information, to street layout guides and safe routes through the shadier areas of the city. Often Nilin must first find a way to cunningly gain access to these memories, before putting together the next piece of the puzzle and working out what she must do next. This process of sneaking up on people and stealing the memories out of their heads makes for some interesting recognisance missions, and a lot more high altitude wall climbing.
As well as facilitating the storage and transfer of memories, the Sensen provides users with a real-time interactive interface with the world around them. The information collected and stored within the Sensen is vast, and acts as a sort of digital guide to the city. Want to know the specials are today at your local cafe? Maybe where the nearest train station is? Or maybe you just need to know exactly how hot that burning building over the actually is. The Sensen will be your guide, giving the world around you tasteful futuristic annotation at every turn. Despite the serious nature of the memory alteration and the sophisticated beauty of the city, there is also humour to be found here. Only in this world would you be sent to the Slum of district 404 by a wannabe Errorist called Bad Request. Looking back. mixing this sort of humour with the rest of this world probably shouldn’t have worked, but as is the nature of life somehow it did.
Her memory hunter status insures that wherever Nilin goes there is likely to be someone waiting ready to kill her. Perhaps the most creepy assailant she will face comes early in the game in the form of the Leapers. In all essence the Leapers are memory junkies driven mad by excessive use of the Sensen and memory warping drugs. These unfortunate souls will stop at nothing to get their next memory fix, and therefore are highly dangerous. On the other side of the spectrum you have the city law enforcement waiting to capture her, as well as Drones flying free over the city for the protection of the privileged few not driven to insanity by the Sensen.
In addition to regular ambushes by her enemies, each chapter of the storyline has a boss battle where Nilin must face down off against one of Neo Paris’s more dangerous inhabitants. These boss battles will see her battle it out against everything from heavily armoured robo-cops to, ex-memory hunters and super charged Leapers. These battles have an enjoyable element of strategy to them, with each boss requiring the right combos or special moves to take damage. Get the combo or move wrong and the boss will simply shrug off your attack, so it is wise to pay attention to which attacks hit hardest during these fights.
Now for the most part the gameplay is smooth. The climbing mechanic works well and despite the odd tendency to run into the walls instead of climbing the ladders, everyday tasks are pretty easy to navigate. There were points however during combat where the speed of the camera could not keep up with the speed of the action, making it difficult to time your combos and judge the attacks. This camera trouble was more noticeable in certain smaller combat areas, and though it was not game breaking it did become annoying at times.
Though collectable items within the city were limited, the packages you were able to collect were signposted in quite a creative way. Digital portraits scattered around the city reveal valuable clues to the whereabouts of hidden packages, some of which are devilishly difficult to find. These packages provide boosts increasing Nilins attributes, and often require close study of the clues and an excellent memory in order to discover them.
+ Exciting new city and creative theme
+ Combo customisation is a nice touch
+ Memory alteration ability is unique and makes you think
- Camera sometimes had trouble keeping up during combat
- Lack of interactivity with the scenery
- Linear platforming becomes repetitive
Overall I enjoyed Remember Me. The theme showed a rarely found amount of creativity and though the city was limited in its interactivity, it was visually pleasing and well worth a visit. The storyline does take a little while to really get going, but with the secrets of her past at stake it hard not to feel compelled to help Nilin see this story through to its conclusion. True the combat may have been a little repetitive and the platform gameplay a little linear, but the memory re-wind scenes were truly inspired and had me questioning the consequences of my actions in a way most games today do not.
Until next time,
Remember Me released 7th June 2013 for PS3, Xbox 360 and PC