The Memory of Us (Switch) Review
It’s great that we live in a time where there are more mediums than ever for people to be able to tell meaningful stories. Who would’ve thought we’d be at a point there are more and more games where people can share experiences of hope and courage in horrific circumstances. My Memory of Us is one of those games.
The story begins with the narrator telling a story of his youth to a girl who had come to his bookstore. His story is of one of friendship, the boy and the girl he befriends. One day a robot army invades, threatening their lives as the soulless robots begin to round up certain citizens. The girl is marked as a red person while the boy is left unchanged. The red people are taken away but the boy won’t give up on his friend. What follows is an adventure through awful times where the boy and girl do their best to escape the robot invasion.
While there are very intentional parallels with the plight of the Jewish citizens in Poland, My Memory of Us finds ways to soften the realities of what happened. It’s possible it was to make it more accessible for younger audiences, although it still alludes to very dark events. One big change is making the setting more fantastical. Instead of invading Nazis, the unnamed country is invaded by a robot force. After bombing and invading the city the robots proceed to process the citizens. Some are left alone, others are selected and have their clothing painted red. Propaganda starts to appear and the red people are vilified. Next, the red people are separated from their homes and families as they’re left in a Ghetto.
Throughout the game, you’ll be controlling the boy and girl (no they are never named). Sometimes you’ll be separated, but more often than not you’ll be thick as thieves. Each kid has their own skills/items that the other does not. The boy can sneak around, hold a small lamp and redirect light to blind people/robots. The girl can run, jump over gaps and use her slingshot to fire rocks at buttons to hit them from a distance. Often you’ll need both of their skills to get through the environments. To keep them moving together they can hold hands so they don’t get too far apart. This hand-holding mechanic is very useful, vital even. Without them holding hands you’ll have to constantly walk one forward, switch characters and play catch up. When it works it’s fine, but soon as you have to juggle between the characters skills and have them perform quick actions, it comes a little undone. The controls aren’t always responsive, and you feel the sluggish responses most when trying to do some fast maneuvers that the game expects from you every now and then.
My Memory of Us is a thinly veiled Allegory for the atrocities that happened in Poland during World War 2 and the treatment of the Jewish people. To further evoke the comparison, the game is a monochromatic hand-drawn looking art (outside of liberal uses of the colour red). Developer Juggler games have done well with the look and sound of the game. It has the appearance of a children’s storybook in a way, cartoony visuals mixed in with a steampunk aesthetic once the Mad King and his robots invade. Over the course of the game, you don’t even really think about the fact that it’s black and white throughout besides the distinct colour from the clothes of the red people. Like the visuals, the music perfectly suits the game. It can be upbeat one minute, then pull at the heartstrings the next. Oh, and did I forget to mention that the whole story is narrated by Patrick Stewart?!? Because it is, and it’s great. He adds that extra bit of gravitas, as outside of the narration characters only communicate with pictograms and Banjo Kazooie style gibberish.
My Memory of Us is an Adventure game with a fair few puzzles along the way. To progress, you’ll usually have to solve some kind of puzzle gating the way. Some are environmental puzzles with some good old pushing objects around, similar to WW1 adventure game Valiant Hearts. You’ll also find the other usual adventure game puzzles. Some puzzles work better than others, the ones that work are clear on what you need to do to move forward. Then there are the ones that don’t work. Sometimes it’s because the objective isn’t clear enough, as everything is communicated in pictograms. Sometimes it’s just slow busywork as you’re traversing big areas, fighting the controls and mechanics as you’re expected to work quickly. It’s not all puzzles either, there’s also stealth and vehicle sections too! Neither of them is great, unfortunately. Stealth has you sneaking from shadow to shadow, waiting for enemy patrols to move past you and face away.
Half the time it works as intended and it’s just a waiting game. The other half has bad enemy positioning, as their line of sight is unclear. Sometimes they spot you from far off, the next minute they seem blind to you. These stealth sections never feel too difficult, but they do come with some punishing lack of checkpoints at times. You’ll think you’ve finished a section and you’re onto the next sequence, only to trip up and then find yourself right back at the start of the section. It’s not even that it’s too difficult to get there again, but it feels time-consuming, especially if there are lots of moving parts to get past the current obstacle.
While it was minor, I did often notice the frame rate wasn’t the best in handheld mode. Never enough to cause an issue, but it was hard not to notice when it happened. Outside of that, there were some minor glitches, generally graphical at the beginning or end of the chapter, and once the narration completely vanished.
Just over 5 hours, the only replay value is to get any memories collectables you missed. By the last hour or two, I was ready for the game to reach its conclusion. I was interested to see where the story would go, but I was getting bored of environmental puzzles and stealth sections. It was worth it to finish it, but I don’t know if I have any reason to go back.
While the story this game tells can be very affecting, especially knowing what really happened, it suffers at times from tonal inconsistency. One minute you’re running through the Ghettos as the red people are treated awfully, as the story is trying to make an impactful statement. Then not long later you’re infiltrating robot bases and destroying flying train engines. The narrator does say that not everything may have happened as he said, but some of these moments feel out of place even if it’s to lighten the mood. One thing that stood out to me was making all of the real-life stories of people from these times collectable items. Valiant Hearts had collectables too, but that was in addition to the information throughout the levels that were educational about WW1. In My Memory of Us, it relies on you scouring every level for these collectible cards so you can access real-life accounts of people who lived through these times. Some are even characters in games and the stories on these cards are heartbreaking. Which is why it is a shame that this content has to be collected instead of accessible throughout.
Like Valiant Hearts, this game is tough to put a score to. Games like this tell important stories and attempt to use video games as a medium to help educate as well as share experiences from devastating wars. My Memory of Us does a good job of retelling and reimagining the Nazi occupation of Poland. It falters at points, especially the moments when the game around the story is frustrating. Yet it’s hard to ignore the visual style they’ve chosen, coupled with an affecting soundtrack.
- Looks and sounds great
- Patrick Stewart
- Tells at important story
- Checkpoints too far when it matters
- Controls and handholding mechanics unreliable
- Stories of the ghetto gated as collectables