Read Only Memories: Neurodiver – Review

Swimming in Shallows rather than Diving in Oceans.

Sequels in gaming walk a real fine line. You know when you pick up the second book in a series you’re going to be missing information and you’re going to be confused. But Games, its a flip of the coin, you might be floating on a river of confusion and lost the whole time, or you might simply be missing out on some Easter egg appearances from some previous characters and those little lore snippets that you’re like ooo I feel smart coz I know that reference. But you’re then going to have to stack that with the issue that all sequels face no matter where they are: Legacy. But how does it stand when compared to the original, and it’s always going to get compared to the original, you’re going to end up with either an invisible war end of the spectrum or Half-Life 2. Its time for another sequel to be put on that line somewhere and it’s time to see whether it steps up or gets knocked down. 

This is Read Only Memories Neurodiver.

Being touted as a sequel to the Sci-Fi visual novel 2064 read only memories full stop… wait… Read Only Memories Neurodiver, see they flip them around – I didn’t want you getting confused, returns you once again to the streets of Neo San Francisco to have yet more visual novel fun. This time you’re going to be playing as ES88, or Luna, and you work for the company Minerva as a Esper, you’re going to be jumping into peoples heads and fixing their memories. That’s your job. Minerva as a company is one of those big Mega Corp sort of things that you see in all Sci-Fi worlds, you know the kind, giant towers, lots of fingers, lots of pies. Neuro Tech, extra sensory stuff, science, money, yay, it’s one of those. You’re going to be having to solve a situation and a mystery throughout the game and that mystery is: who is Golden Butterfly.

You see there is a mysterious psychic that turns up that is messing with people’s memories, fragmenting them. And it’s your job as an Esper with your Neurodiver sidekick to jump into people’s heads and help fix their brains. I guess a Mega Corp makes money off of this by showing themselves as helping fix people, but I’m not really sure how common breaking a brain is so I’m wondering how monetised this is or if its just them looking at a way to maybe manipulate brains, is this an Inception thing? It’s never really fully covered too much when it comes to that aspect and that to me is one of those weaknesses of Sci-Fi, but we’re going to address the weaknesses of Sci-Fi as a concept in a moment. Let’s stick with the strengths like the fact that this game has colourful characters, a vibrant cast, great mixes of backgrounds, some really interesting ideas going on. There are some great things going on to unpack so lets unpack them, starting with Luna.

ES88, or Luna, is a solid main character: she’s funny at times, she’s nervous, she’s worried about being around someone that she likes and inviting them into her apartment. It’s just a great main character vibe to have with that not too serious, not too goofy still takes everything that is going on with the level of importance that it should have and not dismissing it like some characters do which really give a great setting and fully allows you to embrace this Sci-Fi world that is trying to be built here by mid boss with their two games and on top of that you also have some really interesting ideas going on in the sci fi world, you’re taking ideas from the previous game such as the androids/ROMs having woken up. One of your friends in this game embodies that concept. Hybrids are also an idea going on, humans who have modified themselves with animal genes, to better represent how they feel on the inside with how they look on the outside. Which is a logical advancement of where we currently are in the discussion of self and identity. It’s believable and it helps bring the world together.

That’s one of the strengths of Sci-Fi, that you’re only limited by your imagination as to what direction the world has gone in. Is it a Neon lit rain slick precipice, or more of a mega-corp gone made society where even time is monetized. Dystopia or Utopia, there’s ideas in every brush stroke, it’s one of the core strengths of Sci-Fi. The Neurodiver design and concept is a stand out as well, your bio-engineered companion is kept in a metal and glass tube with a handle that looks quintessentially Sci-Fi, and just helps elevate the world design as that thought of how to make things fit the world can be seen in every character, and every background you come across. 

It builds upon the previous game design and expands on the world concept, you’re running with mainly a new cast of characters but the world building of 2064: Read Only Memories is on show here, as you’re able to see the fallout from that game, and meet the original cast of characters and see what’s changed and how the world has grown. It does feel like a different beast to the original game though as Read Only Memories: Neurodiver is a personal story about ES88, there’s no grand plot going on, no giant government conspiracy or mega-corp gone made, this is a lower level, character driven, personal story revolving around one girl, one job, and the choices she makes.

It’s a shame though, that the world they’ve built is used a lot as window dressing rather than for depth, some of the points are explored but never to the degree of satisfaction, and some of the more interesting concepts in the world, such as the neurodiver itself, or the ESPer project, aren’t really covered, it leaves this odd taste in your mouth, wanting more because you’re essentially skimming across an ocean but never diving down to find the treasures that are held within.

The main thread of Golden Butterfly themselves feels like it could have been either more or stretched out further. There’s not enough to it to allow it to truly sing. The game is pretty short, you’re only dealing with five chapters and they’re not very long, you’re only going to be playing this a few hours but it feels like a case of “aha we’re here now lets deal with this. We’ve dealt with it, and OK” and instead of feeling like a novel, instead of feeling like a second book in a series this feels more like a chapter of a larger book going on. And that’s ok, that’s acceptable, I enjoyed this game, I enjoyed my time with it, I had fun playing as ES88. There were characters in this game that made me laugh, Harold being one of them who is a character you’ll meet at the beginning who is a lab technician. He’s fantastic as a character, hers stupid and I can understand why some people would completely hate him, and I don’t like him either and that’s why I like him. But there’s just something missing, there’s that secret sauce when it comes to a world you could lose yourself in. 

There’s a world where you’re like this is cool to look at what they’ve done but you don’t have enough here to go swimming, you’re more just sitting on the edge and wiggling your feet backwards and forward in the water – that’s how it ends up feeling. That’s not to say that its bad though, ultimately at the end of the day I enjoyed my time with this game, enjoyed my time playing as ES88 and I feel like Mid Boss have something really interesting going on here and I really hope there is a next game, I would like to see the continuation of this and I do at the end of the day recommend this game but I feel like I wanted it to be that little bit more, I wanted it to stretch a little bit higher to reach up and really grab it. But not everything can do that and that’s ok.

Read Only Memories Neurodiver is a solid sequel to a really good first game, it sets even more Wheels in Motion, it gives you more world to be build upon, it gives you the old characters that you enjoyed coming back and reprising roles and giving you that little Nostalgia as well as introducing some new worlds to flesh out this work a bit more and it ultimately gives you a fun story that’s short, enjoyable, doesn’t fully utilise that potential and I’m really hoping that in the next game it steps it up a little bit more. What more is there to say then except for, I guess.. blorp

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Dave Spanton

Dave Spanton

Unable to juggle or whistle, Dave handles the PR side of things at LT3 and also is one of the main content creators for the site. Which means if something's broken, you can most likely blame him.

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