Gone are the days of singular-genre games. Pick up any platformer and you’ll often find yourself unlocking skills instead of just going from start to finish. Even casual shooters now have you leveling up in an attempt to make your generic shotgun something of legend. All these features blur the lines of genres in a forward-thinking attempt to make your experience that much more rewarding. It’s that process that allows players to have a sense of agency in the product they’ve spent hours living in.
It’s smart to add mechanics and systems that can help fully realize the world of a game. It’s not nearly as smart to remove some of these systems.
In the case of 2064: Read Only Memories INTEGRAL, developer MidBoss took what people might call a point-and-click adventure and removed the clicks. Instead, it’s just dialogue option after dialogue option with an almost false sense of player engagement that brings players along their distinct path. As a result, we’re left with far less adventure and something more in the vein of the ever growing visual novel genre with certain light gameplay aspects baked into it. This was something I wasn’t expecting.
2064 places you within the backdrop of a highly pixelated cyperpunk world set during a time of protest and civil unrest. With the help of an adorable robot companion, Turing, you’re tasked with finding a missing person using your skills as a journalist to talk to everyone and solve the greater mystery. You go through some twists and turns throughout the story but as a whole there’s little here you’ve haven’t or read before, possibly many times already.
Starting out, you’ll find yourself alone in your apartment, alone and unsure where to go next. I was given the option to look around and interact with various items in the room by looking at, using, talking to, or combine with another item in my inventory. At first, this all seemed very familiar and I was gearing up to get into that groove of clicking on things, picking them up and combining to solve puzzles.
At first I was also amazed at how many different combinations of text I can get just by trying to talk to inanimate objects. The writing felt clever and self-aware. The game proceeded to lightly tutorialize the interaction between objects until you find yourself interacting with a robot and then things started to get a little wordy.
I’d like to state for the record that visual novels aren’t inherently bad; I just don’t find them that engaging or fun. If I’m going to subject myself to a video game world in this fashion, I don’t mind struggling through the absurdity of combining random objects to solve nonsensical puzzles and maybe explore a little. At least I’d be engaging with the story and flexing my brain muscles a bit more instead of just being handheld throughout everything.
If you’re a fan of visual novels, you might be more into this game than I was and that’s just fine. But even if I were a fan of the genre, I’d still find this to be overly wordy despite being sharp or clever at times. I’d often get to the point where I was honestly shocked at just how long some of the dialogue paths ended up being.
For example, there was a tree that I could interact with so I did (obviously). Instead of a short blurb about the tree, my robot went on for 5 or 6 screens of dialogue just telling me about the type of tree and why she knew so much about it. I understand this can be considered “character development” but it felt largely superfluous to the integrity of the character. Not only that, but the game will sometimes explain events that just happened to other characters in full detail as if I didn’t just witness it for myself moments before.
The wordy dialogue can be somewhat exacerbated by the fully voiced lines, added later in the PC version and retained on the Switch, though even these can feel more detrimental. Maybe it’s just guilt in hearing the voices, which are acted just fine, be carelessly skipped. Or maybe it’s the fact that hearing people read through this dialogue makes the excess bleed through that much more. I did switch them off after a few hours in and, oddly enough, this helped make the game more palatable.
Honestly, more concise writing and better editing would’ve trimmed off hours of unnecessary dialogue, both things that might have let the game’s better moments shine, rather than drown in narrative.
If you’re into visual novels then 2064: Read Only Memories INTEGRAL might be for you, as you’ll spend more time reading than actually playing. I only wish there had been more gameplay and puzzles, however, as the idea of navigating this cyberpunk world with more depth would have made it much more satisfying. That said, the game is what it is, and feels right at home on the mobile-friendly Switch, which includes everything from other versions plus a brand new sidestory to enjoy. I just wish it had a better game at its core.