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Read Only Memories: NEURODIVER Preview

Read Only Memories: NEURODIVER Preview

Developed and produced by MidBoss, LLC., Read Only Memories: NEURODIVER is the follow-up to the company’s 2015 hit, 2064: Read Only Memories. The two titles share several of the same characters and the overall setting, though the demo available throughout Next Fest (and likely afterward, given that it’s been out for a few months before Next Fest) spends its time focusing primarily on the new characters and plot.

Like 2064 before it, NEURODIVER is a retro-styled point-and-click adventure game, with lovingly detailed and endlessly expressive 2D pixel graphics and a fantastic electric soundtrack from Scarlet Moon artist, coda. With a first-person perspective, the demo sees the player as an up-and-coming telepath known as an Esper. Codenamed ES88, she begins the story nearly prepared for a final written exam that will test whether she is ready to officially use a NEURODIVER, an artificially-created lifeform that can enhance an Esper’s abilities to the point where they can dive into another person’s memories. And by “nearly prepared,” I of course mean that the demo opens the night before the test with ES88 not having started reading the NEURODIVER’s manual.

neurodiver hate reading screenshot

Interestingly, after clicking the start button on the title screen, these details are not immediately explained. Instead of any sort of automatic string of dialogue, the player is met with ES88’s living space and the ability to wave their cursor around to interact with whatever lights up. Thankfully, hovering over any usable or otherwise remarkable object with the mouse causes said object to light up and a pop-up to explain what the player is looking at. Most of ES88’s quips and descriptions of items imply her current goal of getting through her manual, steering the player towards the book on the desk. However, rather than beginning a long scene of reading the book, clicking on the manual results in ES88 making a few short statements about how she needs to get her reading done. What follows is a repetition of clicking on the book and witnessing ES88 read just a little more of the book and then having to click on the manual once more. The experience is frustrating and boring to the trainee, but by giving the player an active role in the scene, NEURODIVER is not only making the experience far more engaging and offering its lead some strong characterisation, but also teaching the player part of how the game works in that clicking on something more than once may yield more than one result and might even be necessary for progression.

neurodiver d d d d d dive screenshot

In any case, as our hero attempts to read through the thick tome, cramming every detail in a desperate attempt to study like a prototypical college student (what, no, I never did this, why are you looking at me like that?!), she is soon interrupted by a couple of visitors. One is GATE, a friend of ES88’s and an incredibly strong robot war vet. The other is a large man named Crow, a Hybrid (or a person who has had their DNA spliced with an animal’s) and one of GATE’s war buddies invited along in the hopes that ES88 can use the NEURODIVER to help him with an old memory that’s been bothering him. What follows from here are a series of choices that help determine some of ES88’s characterisation and the player’s first glimpse at actually entering another person’s memories. Exploring Crow’s memories and filling in the missing pieces take up essentially the rest of the demo, delicately balancing funny one-liners and observations with solid character drama. None of the admittedly few puzzles present here required any of that classic “obtuse adventure game logic” and the plotline did a fantastic job of steering the player from point A to point B without ever seeming obtrusive or as if the game were holding the player’s hand.

neurodiver monologue screenshot

All in all, the demo presents a solid storyline that I don’t want to spoil too much of. There’s clearly a lot of passion and polish present in NEURODIVER and the demo left me satisfied; certainly looking forward to what may come next, but also like I’d experienced a tight 30-minute tale that I could reflect on in whole. So I decided to play through it one more time. Most of the different directions I took went primarily in the same directions overall, but still offered a few surprises. However, at least in the demo, there’s a single story happening here and the decisions made are more for the sake of providing differing characterisations for ES88 and the people whose memories she dives into.

It was also in my second playthrough that I found a single aspect of the game to theoretically criticise. I noticed that several of the items I had acquired in my first playthrough were still in my inventory when entering Crow’s memories, despite the fact that I hadn’t officially acquired them the second time through. It was difficult to tell if this was an error in the demo or an intentional feature for replaying previously accessed memories. As I did not notice any acknowledgment of the fact that this had occurred in-game, I’m led to believe the former of the two possibilities, but I could be wrong.

neurodiver buggy menu screenshot

However, beyond this strange potential bug in the system, Read Only Memories: NEURODIVER presents itself through a solid, hilarious demo that leaves me excited for what will come next. There is no official release date yet beyond how the game will release later this year, so I’ll have to wait for a while at least. That being said, the prior title in the series, 2064: Read Only Memories, is available and I, for one, will be giving it a shot while I wait patiently for NEURODIVER.

Erin McAllister

Erin McAllister

Staff Writer

Erin is a massive fan of mustard, writes articles that are too long, and is a little bit sorry about the second thing.

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