It’s rare that a video game knows exactly what it wants to be and never deviates, but that’s what Cloisters Interactive has crafted with its succinct debut game, A Memoir Blue. It is an interactive poem with no dialogue, telling its unique mother-daughter narrative strictly through visuals and sound, and the whole experience lasts about an hour and a half for one playthrough. The game draws autobiographically from the life of its creative director, resulting in an inimitable bittersweet authenticity that elevates the entire production.
Poetry in Motion
A Memoir Blue is about superstar swimmer Miriam, who literally submerges into her memories to reflect on her past and on her relationship with her mother. Water becomes a constant metaphor in the story, symbolizing different things at different times but never becoming heavy-handed about it. Indeed, it feels like genuinely every visual in the story has been placed to convey a deliberate emotion or idea, but it’s up to individual players to interpret them. Even after playing through the full game twice, I am still contemplating what a couple of the more striking visuals might represent.
The art style is definitely the star of A Memoir Blue. The adult Miriam is rendered in a pseudo-realistic 3D style, but her past child self and her mother are rendered through hand-drawn 2D animation. Within one scene, the visuals and backgrounds can switch seamlessly back and forth between 3D and 2D imagery in really clever ways.
For instance, one of the earliest scenes depicts Miriam and her mother escaping their lives with Miriam’s abusive father by boarding a train. You learn about their troubled family dynamic through the simple act of tearing down posters in the train, with some of the posters depicting moments in the lives of the family. It’s more impressive in motion than can be described in words because, again, the placement and execution of every visual is intensely well thought-out.
Meanwhile, the soundtrack uses some pleasant ambient tracks and a few original acoustic songs that include vocals. The music sets the scene well, but since I personally am not a fan of the type of indie music featured, those songs just sounded like “every acoustic indie song ever made” to me. Of course, mileage will vary.
To the game’s credit, A Memoir Blue cannot be described as a walking simulator because you’re seldom directly controlling a character. More often, it’s a point-and-click affair, interacting directly with specific objects. That means the game is best played on PC with a mouse, as on PlayStation 5, the game does not take advantage of touch controls or haptic feedback. Still, controlling the game is simple enough because L2 and R2 can be used to instantly place your cursor over relevant objects. Even on PS5 though, there were a few stutters in the game performance, suggesting the developers could have optimized the game a little more.
As I noted once before in a preview, it doesn’t always feel like you are playing A Memoir Blue so much as contributing to it. The game is every bit the interactive poem it claims to be, and all of your actions feel like you are putting the finishing touches on someone else’s intimate piece of art. For instance, you pull the sun down out of the sky to end Miriam’s day, and later on you change the TV channel to something specific in order to capture child Miriam’s attention.
There are small moments in the game here and there that allow self-expression (which is incidentally how you unlock many of the game’s achievements), but by and large, you are just following Cloisters Interactive’s script. And frankly, A Memoir Blue is so much stronger for it. There are so many narrative-based games that will let you examine arbitrary scraps of junk to get one more piece of world-building, but A Memoir Blue values your time a lot more than that and delivers all of its important information in more effective and artful ways. This is a game that only shows you what matters, and when its brief story is over, it has the confidence to just roll credits. Ironically, the credits are the only part of the game that A Memoir Blue will allow you to skip.
The Review Verdict on A Memoir Blue
Ultimately, A Memoir Blue isn’t necessarily going to revolutionize video game storytelling. It is a fairly simple story of mother-daughter reconciliation, after all. However, it tells that story with an extremely thoughtful blend of 3D and 2D visuals that are densely packed with additional meaning. A Memoir Blue is in every sense a finely crafted piece of art, and that’s a pretty good way to start a new game studio.
A PlayStation 5 review code for A Memoir Blue was provided by the publisher.