My Memory of Us Review
Reviewed on Nintendo SwitchAlso available on Sony PlayStation 4, Microsoft Xbox One, PC and Nintendo Switch
It’s easy to forget how versatile the nature of video games can be. From a quick burst of entertainment to a visual novel, gaming has the potential to fulfil a variety of purposes that can both be used for enjoyment and illustration. My Memory of Us is a game that encapsulates an important piece of history, while still acting as a visually enticing indie title. First released on other platforms in October 2018, this personified fantasy account of World War II events has finally been released on the Nintendo Switch. While its initial debut caused some controversy, will this important message be received differently on Nintendo’s portable home console?
The narrative of My Memory of Us is constructed from the memories of a bookshop owner, voiced by none other than Patrick Stewart. He is reminded of his past by a little girl, who discovers a book within his shop, prompting him to recall childhood memories. The basis of the tale is his friendship with a girl during a period of fear and division, based on the horrific events of the Holocaust. While you’d expect a story from such a dark corner of history to be of an upsetting nature, it instead focuses on a theme of unconditional friendship and innocence.
This is certainly a unique take on the sensitive subject matter of war atrocities, especially since it makes its point using imagery. Instead of using historical accuracy, it replaces Nazi soldiers with visually similar robots. The game also uses the color red to portray those who are being segregated, in a similar fashion to the film Schindler's List. Despite not explicitly referring to factual events, My Memory of Us makes it clear what it's trying to represent. Instead of trying to portray the horrors of Nazi occupation, the developers used their platform to deliver a positive message. It’s easy to remember hate, oppression, and malice throughout history, but this game shows us that compassion and friendship can be present during even the darkest of times.
The aesthetics of My Memory of Us are visually striking, with 2D graphics that look like a living illustration. The grey scale theme adds to the effectiveness of the games hand-drawn look, with splashes of red also being used. Not only does this prevent the potential monotony of a game completely devoid of color, but it also serves as a way to highlight characters that are subject to discrimination. Strangely, the game also uses red to signify something that can be interacted with, which takes away from the effectiveness of its underlying metaphor. The soundtrack within the game helps to set the tone, with melodies that sound like they’re straight out of a fairy tale, adding to the childlike innocence the story maintains.
While the game is linear at its core, it makes use of puzzles and items as a means of progression. These range from finding a bottle of wine for a drunkard, to connecting electrical wires in the correct sequence. At times, it almost feels reminiscent of point and click adventure games, with some puzzles requiring an understanding of how to interact with the environment. Despite some puzzles being quite intuitive, others end up feeling menial, which can disrupt the game’s flow. This is something that is an Achilles heel for a 2D platformer, as the immersion of the game can be lost if the interaction feels repetitive or meaningless. Luckily, My Memory of Us does have other aspects to its game design that help to revive the player’s attention span.
Both the boy and girl have unique items and abilities at their disposal, with the girl being able to run and use a slingshot, while the boy can use light reflecting mirror and sneak around. When together, the two characters can hold hands, which allows both to share movement abilities. The duo will frequently be separated, which means that they must be united to progress. This usually either means that doors need to be opened or platforms manoeuvred, which in itself can feel like a puzzle. Stealth must also be used to successfully avoid robots, with traps and distractions also being at your disposal, in place of combat. Some of these sections will feel very familiar if you’re used to games such as Oddworld or Heart of Darkness.
As the plot progresses, the gameplay manages to become more engaging by mixing in an element of pearl. It is during these sections that the gameplay starts of offer something more memorable, with challenges that feel like they actually matter, rather than just being a way to slow down progression. There’s a specific segment in which the children disguise themselves as a robot soldier, in order to slip past enemy guards. This is something that resonates the game’s theme as a whole, as it acts as both an act of humorous child mischief, and a way of surviving within a hostile environment. There’s also a particularly memorable moment of the game, where you have to board a flying train and save prisoners on their way to a camp. It’s likely that these parts of the game are what stirs controversy, as they are arguably masking the true apprehension of the events unfolding. However, you could say that the game is drawing its perception of events based on how a child might perceive them, which would likely mean a more naïve recollection of events.
My Memory of Us is a wholesome experience that tells an important history lesson in a completely different way. While it’s evident that the game is based on World War II atrocities, the narrative teaches a lesson that is relevant in today's world. Discrimination is still prominent within society today, with many forgetting the important lessons that history has taught us. The Nintendo Switch is actually a great platform for this title, as a younger audience will benefit most from the message the game delivers. The fact that Juggler Games based the game on real people is also a great touch, as it shows respect for those who experienced the events first hand. While the game also features gorgeous visuals and a well-composed soundtrack, it is let down by blips of uninspired gameplay. That being said, this is still a solid 2D puzzle platformer that can be enjoyed at a comfortable pace, making it worthwhile if you’re after something artistic and benign.