Test – Read Only Memories: NEURODIVER | Xbox

NEURODIVER is the sequel to 2064: Read Only Memories, a visual novel of pixel art investigations, released in 2015 on PC then on Playstation and Xbox. A sequel that we owe to the MidBoss studio team and whose development was tumultuous, since it took nine years to arrive on our consoles. New to the series or a lifelong fan: Welcome to Neo-San Francisco!

Welcome to the future

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The year is 2070 in the very cyberpunk city of Neo-San Francisco. Luna, aka ES88, is a professional telepath who works for the company MINERVA. The latter has developed a synthetic creature with psychic powers, the Neurodiver, which allows ES88 to connect directly to a person's memories and modify them. Accompanied by Gate, an android who acts as a bodyguard for the Neurodiver and best friend for Luna, the heroine carries out various psychic investigations on behalf of MINERVA: recovery of forgotten passwords or memories that could help solve a problem. investigation.

A story that overflows…

ES88's daily life is turned upside down when Fortuna, the director of MINERVA, entrusts him with the task of investigating a strange rebellious telepath who calls himself Golden Butterfly. The unknown seems capable of hiding in the memory of others and altering it. This mission will allow ES88 to meet many characters such as Lexi, a former police inspector turned private detective, Tomcat, a genius hacker, or even Jess, a hybrid lawyer specializing in the law of genetically modified species. But Golden Moth's power may prove too great to contain, even by someone equipped with a Neurodiver!

Neon lights and latte coffee

What we first notice in NEURODIVER is its vision of a very cyberpunk and at the same time cozy future. You can easily go from a bar with a fluorescent sign where the waiters are robots, to a picturesque little bookstore that would look out of place in a Ghibli film. The future proposed by the MidBoss studio is pleasantly peaceful despite its escalation of technologies, a bit as if humanity had finally managed to make peace with its growing ambitions to make progress and nature coexist. A vision at odds with the filthy alleys of Blade Runner or the cities of Jusant, in which nature has reclaimed its rights.

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It's cozy

Without being the most beautiful pixel art we have ever seen, the game is rather pretty with its very colorful environments, teeming with details, and its characters pleasing to the eye. The codes of the manga are clearly present, whether in the design or the facial expressions of the protagonists. In addition to containing obvious links with its previous episode, the game allows small nods to other productions of the genre like Coffee Talk. Overall, the adventure takes place in a joyful, caring and colorful atmosphere.

Everything is super awesome!

This kindness and naivety shines through the screenplay. During a good half of the adventure, the game strives to install us in a reassuring environment. Despite some less happy themes like the war that took place years before or the segregation of androids, everyone seems incapable of being malicious, hypocritical or manipulative. We dig into people's heads, but it's for a good cause! If this sweet candor comes to lower our distrust as a player, it is to better plunge us into anxiety. After several hours, the game changes and ES88 begins to have strange dreams, to have absences, visions… to the point that it becomes more and more difficult to separate reality from the memories she explores.

Coffee Talk fans will enjoy

However, we regret that this idea, brilliant in fact, is never fully exploited by the developers. There are a few secrets (not so bad) that are revealed and explanations that clarify certain mysteries, but, once the last pieces of the puzzle are in place and the final choices are made, everyone apologizes , forgive yourself, and life resumes its course. Where there would have been material to create a real psychological drama, we are content with anxiety and vague suspicions which subside quite quickly.

Memory fragments get weirder and weirder

However, the game aims to carry many committed messages, whether in favor of minorities and inclusiveness in all its forms, or against large capitalist corporations and the corruption of institutions. Commitments which are found in non-binary and LGBTQ+ characters, reflections on war, ostracization or even the inequality of justice, but which perhaps deserved to be better highlighted. Despite everything, the adventure remains pleasant, well-paced, and its storyline manages to keep us in suspense throughout the duration of the title.

Let's talk mechanics and technique

In addition to the hunt given to Golden Butterfly, the game uses real problems of psychology and neuroscience to justify its incursions into memory. Traumatic shock, grief or the self-creation of false memories are all reasons to help someone by delving into their head. As Luna explains very well: “The brain hates a void and will seek to fill it with what seems logical to it. » Thus, a passage forgotten by a character will take the form of a bizarre element, which has no place there, but which nevertheless comes from the person's memory and experience.

While false memories are a reality, they are rarely this strange!

As a good visual novel, Read Only Memories: NEURODIVER offers fairly simple gameplay mechanics, inherited from its PC version. We move our arrow with the left stick to select the characters or objects with which to interact, and almost the entire adventure is built around the dialogues. A few choices allow you to influence the story and, during the memory reconstruction sequences, you must first have found the right objects to repair a corrupted memory. No need to worry in the event of an error, if the player does not select what is needed during a sequence of this type, it is possible to retry all the combinations of objects available as many times as necessary… or go back and explore the area to find the missing one!

Initially easy, the reconstruction of memories will gradually become more complex…

On the other hand, finding these clues necessary for Luna's investigations can sometimes prove complicated. The fault, first of all, is the choice of movement by stick, which often proves too imprecise when it is necessary to select a small element. Then because of certain failures which mean that we find ourselves clicking several times to validate an action, or even that we are confronted with elements for which the action is not triggered at all (fortunately, none of these does not prevent us from going to the end of the adventure).

What an adorable creature to search a brain!

A bad translation also spoils part of the adventure: not only do the dialogues often go beyond the boxes and are therefore not readable until the end, but it also turns out that some are simply incoherent. A “te” which transforms into “me” (and which completely changes the meaning of a sentence), clients which become bosses, a library which becomes a cabinet… Even in the menus, where quests become “clues » ! Strange errors when we see the care taken to preserve the inclusiveness of certain dialogues relating to non-gendered characters, knowing to what extent French is not a language that bends easily!

Imperfect but not unpleasant

Despite its pitfalls, NEURODRIVER remains a short but pleasant adventure. The game's five chapters (plus the introduction) can be completed in five hours. On the other hand, obtaining all the achievements will require at least two games, since some of them are subject to the player's choices in terms of storyline branches.

Read Only Memories: NEURODIVER is announced for May 16, 2024.

Tested on Xbox Series

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