2064: Read Only Memories Integral (Switch eShop) Review
Looking for a socio-politically relevant point-and-click adventure? The cyberpunk corporate espionage thriller 2064: Read Only Memories Integral tells a poignant tale in light of today’s information age.
In the year 2064, Relationship and Organizational Managers (ROMs) are commonplace pillars of society, doing much of the menial and manual labour-based tasks required for cities to function. Further to the widespread use of ROMs, human augmentation isn’t uncommon, where people can undergo functional and cosmetic procedures to change their body. However, groups of activists protest against augments, sneering at those who have them – irrespective of personal circumstances – believing the act of augmentation will result in humanity losing what makes it unique.
Set in the not-too-distant future of 2064 Neo-San Francisco, Read Only Memories places you in the shoes of a broke journalist whose life is thrown into chaos upon meeting the android Turing, a sapient ROM who enlists you to hunt down their missing creator. What sets Turing apart from other ROMs is that it has the ability to self-modify its code, in a similar way to how human brains process information when learning new things. Ensuing is an intriguing journey of sabotage, violence and corporate conspiracies as you figure out why Turing’s creator is missing, and why their disappearance could change the societal role of ROMs worldwide. Read Only Memories delves into many of the typical themes explored in the cyberpunk genre, including identity, classism, and the rising tensions between humans and androids.
In this conflict-ridden future, your role in Read Only Memories is to investigate alongside Turing, talking to Neo-San Fran’s diverse inhabitants and visiting different locations en route to uncovering the many mysteries abound. Like many point-and-click games before it, Read Only Memories allows you to interact with its world via a cursor, which is used to talk to people, combine and use objects, and figure out solutions to problems. Beginning in the protagonist’s run-down apartment, the opening sequence provides minimal direction as to how you should proceed, but it’s effective in implicitly guiding you and serving as functional worldbuilding. Unsurprisingly, there’s a lot of reading involved, but most character dialogue is voice-acted, featuring a talented cast who inject plenty of emotion into the story.
Thankfully, Read Only Memories’ writing is mainly strong, highlighted by its interesting and multi-layered characters who may choose to help or abandon you based on your dialogue choices. There’s lots of fascinating sociological and philosophical dialogue, mainly from Turing, whose refreshing perspective is one of someone discovering the world for the first time. Turning often muses aloud about its perspective of identity and what it means to exist, quoting works from various historical figures on the matter. Also, Read Only Memories fully commits to the core cyberpunk belief of identity diversity, allowing you to nominate your preferred pronouns, or even create your own.
Unfortunately, strong writing aside, Read Only Memories falls into the trap of doing more telling than showing. While this is not helped by its sparse, largely static visuals, multiple major plot points are told via dialogue after the fact, instead of being shown, limiting their emotional impact. It’s odd that some twists unfold in front of your eyes, but then others are told in a rather nonchalant “oh, by the way, this happened” sort of way. It’s annoying, but the otherwise solid writing carries the plot along.
Regardless of some narrative frustrations, Read Only Memories’ various fascinating themes draw eerily poignant parallels to current society. The inhabitants of Read Only Memories’ interconnected cyberpunk future are all connected via Meshnet, the in-game version of the internet operating through virtual reality, neural implants, and nearly every other piece of technology that can be interfaced with. Using this backdrop, the game delves into the ethical implications of machine learning and an interconnected society, including data collection and manipulation. Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, anyone? Read Only Memories originally came out on PC a couple of years ago – it’s fair to say I’m impressed by how strongly its messages hold up in the wake of recent real-life events.
Unique to the Switch version, Read Only Memories Integral features a side story starring the two young punks who play a role in the main game. It’s all rather short and inconsequential, but it’s filled with humour and heart, while providing further context to their role in the events of the main game.
2064: Read Only Memories Integral holds strong thanks to its diverse crew of interesting characters and socially relevant story, despite sometimes telling more than it shows.
+ Diverse characters featuring strong voice acting performances
+ Strong writing packed with themes reflecting modern society...
- ...Despite sometimes telling instead of showing the plot