A retro-futuristic indie provides a refreshing narrative not only on the future, but on present day.
For years, I’ve clamored for any piece of media set in a picturesque, neon lit, science fiction future, which so many mused on in the 1980’s. The setting makes for such a familiar yet distant tale: personal robot assistants, bright colors covering every facet of society to hide corruption, tech companies running amok, etc. Utilizing this retro-future aesthetic and arming itself with a genuine SNES look and sound, Midboss’ 2064: Read Only Memories stole my heart from the first moment. The rest is history.
2064: ROM takes place about fifty years in the future (in 2064, to be exact). Federal services are now privatized; cars drive themselves; and mechanical Relationship and Organizational Managers (ROMs) are commonplace pals for all citizens. These robots, mind you, are simply computers, and do not think on their own. As a journalist, you’re stuck in a rut, and live alone in a run-down apartment in Neo San Francisco. One evening, a small robot shows up on your doorstep, created by your old friend Hayden. Introducing itself as Turing, the bubble-headed ROM claims to be the world’s first, true artificial intelligence. Hayden has gone missing, and Turing needs your help finding him.
Thus, the point-and-click cyberpunk adventure begins: playing sidekick to a newborn AI. You pick up items for later use, sift through documents and emails, and generally explore Neo-SF. The neon city is filled with many unique locations, each with their own bombastic retro soundtrack. Such non-linearity opens multiple avenues through which players discover the world. Most objects or props can be viewed, picked up, or talked to for further exposition on the fictional setting. Each item serves a purpose, whether it’s to relay the rich history of a media corporation, or deliver a clever joke to make you chortle.
The only true downside to be found is simply that this game may not be to everyone’s taste. While certainly up my alley, mainstream opinion has filed the point-and-click genre under “boring,” as of late. Smaller complaints may tarnish the game as well, namely the lack of an auto-save feature, and the fact that it can be difficult to see the faint outline on items as you try to select them.
The experience tells a refreshing tale in an exciting setting, while expertly and gracefully discussing ideals of tolerance, acceptance, and respect.
Setting aside the few mechanical setbacks: 2064 is mostly about conversation, and forces you to use journalistic skills to pry details from persons of interest. Throughout the story, an incredible cast is introduced, each member of which provides deeper meaning to the world around you. Every character is incredibly well-written and detailed. Elegantly animated pixel portraits convey a wide range of emotion for most of the cast, and are paired with wonderful voice acting. Midboss successfully created an inclusive future that both distances itself from today and hearkens back to it. The game gives powerful insight into a time when differences in sexuality and gender are openly accepted, leaving humanity to rally themselves against a different cause.
Gene therapy is on the rise, allowing the mixture of human and animal DNA. As a result, people now have cures to serious diseases, yet end up with bestial traits by using them. Naturally, some want to look like creatures for the fun of it, causing protests to spark on whether becoming a “hybrid” is truly humane. The narrative hits excruciatingly close to home in this modern age, exploring valid points on both sides of the argument. “What does it truly mean to be human? Does ‘having cat ears’ mean you’re no longer a person? Should you forgo them and die painfully?” This should all sound vaguely familiar. Poignant shades of 2016 and 2017 are seen throughout 2064, drawing apt comparisons to recent political events.
Complicating the issue on humanity–while also stealing the show–is Turing, the adorable robot with an artificial mind. Although they exist in a morally gray area, Turing is the one bright constant in your story. If every other character is “well-written,” this robot is “fantastically imagined.” Turing truly feels and understands every story beat alongside the player. They give comfort in a stressful spot, or help navigate awkward conversation. This kawaii ROM isn’t just some robot: they are a friend. You need Turing as much as they need you. For a fleeting moment, they are a long-lost pal, jovially accompanying you on an errand.
…It reads as a cyberpunk adventure, but could just as easily be a modern tale after a few noun changes.
Most noteworthy, however, is that 2064 fantastically generates emotion–even more so than a novel or film. Thanks to the game, you will grin when Turing speaks, drop your jaw at revelations, and even shudder in horror. Mysteries and questions culminate in a ridiculously good climax, forcing you to pause and gather your thoughts. The futuristic setting does not distance you from the media; rather, it convincingly shows one of the paths humanity may walk down. Ultimately, the experience tells a refreshing tale in an exciting setting, while expertly discussing ideals of tolerance, acceptance, and respect.
Midboss created a wholly unique experience that wears many masks and excels at all of them. 2064 is an intriguing game, an enticing thriller, and a sci-fi dreamboat. It’s also a social commentary, a political warning, and a cultural celebration. 2064: Read Only Memories focuses on the future, yet speaks volumes on the present: it reads as a cyberpunk adventure, but could just as easily be a modern tale after a few noun changes. It’s clever, charming, crazy, and definitely one of the best adventures of 2017.
Note: A review copy was provided by the developer. This does not influence our opinion on the game, nor does it affect the score received.