Extra Punctuation

Extra Punctuation
Remember Me Could Have Been So Much More

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw | 25 Jun 2013 16:00
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After all that, I find myself left with a strange, double-edged fondness for Remember Me, the same way I think of games like Alone in the Dark and Mirror's Edge. Games that at the very least try to make the most of some clever ideas, but cock them up adorably. Remember Me is just trying to do too many things: the memory alteration mechanic, the custom combos, and the attempts to meet the standard triple-A model halfway.

I do like the game's custom combos for reminding me of God Hand, the likes of which I don't think we'll ever see again in triple-A. It, too, had customisable combos, but made more of an effort to focus on the concept with a massive variety of punches and kicks and combat challenges. It was also quite a funny game, and knew how to be hilariously over-the-top without being all about 'ironic' excessive violence and gore. It was nice back then, wasn't it, when not every single triple-A release felt like it had to be about the gritty post-apocalypse or the overthrow of tyrannical regimes, and take itself so effing seriously all the bloody time.

Remember Me reminds me (arf) of what my high school gym teacher told us when our PE lesson was taking place in the 'fitness suite' where all the weight machines and treadmills were. He said there's nothing to be gained from wandering around the room going "Ooh I'll have a quick go on this machine and then on this and then on this." You need to sit down and commit yourself to a few sets or you're never going to grow. And that's Remember Me's problem: too many ideas that it toys with a little and then moves onto the next. So the number of different moves you can unlock and combos you can create are severely limited. And the really interesting concept, the ability to edit the memories of other characters, is not explored to the full.

Here's how it manifests. At a few determined points in the plot, Nilin can do a weird little gesture at the back of a villainous character's neck and the action shifts to a playback of the event that defined that character and turned them into bitter, hate-filled scumbags (because it's only ever one shattering moment that does that and never a continuous stream of niggling misfortune or the entirety of a poor upbringing but shut up, just roll with it). The task is to change the memory, and in doing so, make the subject a better person. Essentially we scan back and forth through a rendered cutscene and slightly move the states and positions of small objects in order to cause the event to play out differently.

You do this a total of about four times throughout the game. But I don't think it's particularly helpful to say that just making a few more would've helped. It doesn't seem like the sequences would've been easy to make. The developers needed to write them, voice them, create assets, animate the assets, and do all that for every possible outcome that can be created from the rearrangement of the interactable bits (many of which are red herrings, which I'm thankful for, because it raises the minigame above the usual unfailable 'press X to continue' gameplay that blights gaming culture). While more of these sequences would certainly have been welcome, I still wouldn't consider the game to have fully explored the premise.

Take a step back and consider where else the ability to rewrite people's memories could apply to the gameplay. Think more in terms of organic gameplay to be used on the fly, during combat, upon standard enemies, rather than in pre-baked inorganic interludes. Here's what I came up with.

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