Archives by Day

My Memory of Us

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Adventure
Developer: Juggler Games
Release Date: Jan. 24, 2019


As an Amazon Associate, we earn commission from qualifying purchases.

Switch Review - 'My Memory of Us'

by Cody Medellin on Aug. 22, 2019 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

My Memory of Us is a story about two young friends who are fighting for survival and their friendship during times of war.

Buy My Memory of Us

As a backdrop, World War II is a familiar one for video game players. Stealth games, point-and-click adventures, and first-person shooters have all dealt with that dark time in human history. Recently, there has been a push toward mixing narrative experiences with simpler game mechanics in the hope of using the medium to tell a more compelling tale. This is what My Memory of Us is aiming for, and the story is an important one, regardless of the time period.

The story starts off in the present day as a young girl is taking the subway to find a new book at the book store. Once there, she stumbles upon a special old book. When she brings it to the shopkeeper, an old photo falls out, and the shopkeeper tells the young girl about how he and the girl in the photo had met. According to his tale, he was a young thief and met her while trying to escape from the police. The friendship was immediate, and everything seemed to work well until it suddenly didn't. The Robot King had invaded, and once his armies took over, he painted much of the population red, ostracizing them from the rest and forcing them to live in squalor. As the girl is now one of those who have been painted, the boy refuses to leave her side, and it is up to them to live the best they can amid this terrible situation.

On the surface, this is a familiar sci-fi tale taking place in an undisclosed country but with a familiar 1940s backdrop due to the types of clothing and cars that are seen. Look deeper, and you'll see how this becomes an allegory for Poland in World War II. The robot army are the Nazis, and everyone clothed in red are the Jews. Although the game features no visible killing, you can see how the bombing runs affect civilians and how peaceful cities have become ruins. You can see families driven into overcrowded ghettos, while others are hunted down and captured by robots. A few people are even imprisoned and shipped off to what you'd believe to be concentration camps. The game may not have swastikas or yellow stars pinned to people, but unless you're completely unfamiliar with the war, this is essentially a journal of what happened to some of the people in Poland during that time. The game reinforces this by having collectible pictures that can be viewed through the gallery in the main menu. It shows the names and short biographies of some important Polish people during this time, including Jewish artists and freedom fighters.

While the story takes some important turns, some may take offense at how the events have been made less realistic. Since several movies and TV shows display the realities of these events and the game wasn't aiming for a younger audience, there wasn't necessarily a need to dull the harshness. There's also the fact that the protagonists seem to be smiling almost all of the time despite their surroundings, something that may be seen as signs of hope or wildly unrealistic. Again, this is a personal perspective, so your own outlook will determine whether this treatment is good.

If you're a fan of games like Valiant Hearts, then you'll have a good idea of how this platformer plays out. Presented entirely in 2D, there are a few sections where you'll take automatic leaps over small gaps, traverse some low crates, or reach higher places by moving ladders or using switches. You'll control both the boy and the girl almost all of the time, and while they can move away from one another to do different tasks out of necessity due to other obstacles, they can also lock hands and move together as one. Depending on who's leading, your abilities will vary. For example, the girl can sprint, do small leaps, and use her slingshot to hit some switches from afar. The boy can shine lights into people's eyes to blind them, but he's also more adept at stealth, as he can force the duo to crouch behind objects and otherwise get obscured in the shadows.

The platforming plays second fiddle to the puzzles, which often take the form of something you'd find in traditional point-and-click adventure games. Some puzzles simply have you fulfilling other people's requests, and since everyone's speech is displayed in icons and other illustrations, it's pretty easy to see what they want. Other puzzles have you distracting people so you can sneak up and pick their pockets for essential items, while a few puzzles have you figuring out lock combinations with clues scattered throughout each environment. There are even a few puzzles that'll require you to play minigames, like a note-matching rhythm section, a sliding puzzle, and even one where you need to match pipe pieces so substances can flow unhindered.

Like quite a number of adventure games, puzzles and their solutions can sometimes have you thinking too far out of the box to where nothing makes sense. They aren't completely unsolvable, as you can stumble upon the solution without realizing it or brute-force your way to the solution. Luckily, the puzzle selection is quite varied, so there won't be a slew of similar puzzles during the game's five-hour run.

My Memory of Us would seem like the perfect title for those who want a story with some emotional impact that also presents some good brain-teasers. However, there is one thing that hampers all of this: the controls. For some reason, the developer has decided to abandon some of the more accepted norms of 2D platforming in favor of its own scheme. For example, you can't jump, so going over some steps or boxes requires you to hit Up on either the left analog stick or d-pad and then hit Down to descend from that height instead of just letting you fall over the edge. Depending on who you're controlling, holding down the B button either lets you run or crouch to sneak around places. The same goes for zR and the A button, as you're either going to use your mirror to blind people or your slingshot to hit switches. R allows you to switch control between the protagonists, while the X button allows you to holds hands or break that connection.

It is one thing to learn a new control scheme because the developers wanted to break away from the established norms, but it is another thing entirely when those same controls want to work against your cause. The act of climbing and descending from boxes and small ledges is needlessly cumbersome. Trying to blind someone with your mirror is grating, as your aiming cursor moves slowly and erratically, making it seem like a miracle that you could hit your target at all. More noticeable, however, is the lack of immediate response for some actions. There are times when grabbing and releasing hands is met with a delay, and the same goes for ascending or descending from objects; it's apparent when you notice that switching between characters, entering doorways, or participating in the rhythm minigames yields an instant response.

You can live with some of the control issues because most of your time is spent in stages where there's no sense of urgency. The control issues aren't going to hinder gameplay if you can take your time to solve a puzzle or you're in areas where there's no fear of getting caught. However, the game has a number of chase sequences and instances when you can be stopped by soldiers. You'll need fast reactions to get things done, and this is when you'll curse the controls since they're usually the reason you get caught. It hurts more here since the game doesn't have the kindest of checkpoints, so you'll constantly repeat tricky platforming and switching sequences because your responses aren't recorded fast enough. Thus, once you finish a tough stage or manage to get through that surprise boss fight near the game's end, the feeling is more relief than elation.

Aside from the story, the presentation is one of the strongest parts of the title. The random babbling heard anytime anyone speaks is disarmingly cute, but is the unmistakable voice of Sir Patrick Stewart that lends the tale some gravitas, as his lines during cut scenes make each situation hopeful no matter how dire it is. Graphically, the game takes on a black and white tone with an art style that'll remind you of some cartoons of that era. The presentation works, especially once the color red contrasts everything. The animation also works out well, but the color scheme can sometimes work against the game, such as when you're trying to aim with your slingshot and can't see the predicted arc.

My Memory of Us feels like a game that is fighting with itself. On the one hand, the story is wonderful. Even though some players may not like the attempts to dull the harshness of the real stories, it remains a hopeful tale where the horrors can still be understood by those willing to look beyond the surface level. On the other hand, the frustration felt by the sometimes-unresponsive controls can obscure the message, as the controls can make even the simplest of things feel more frustrating. This is still a title worth checking out, but only if you're patient enough to withstand a control scheme that is at odds with the challenges in place.

Score: 7.0/10

More articles about My Memory of Us
blog comments powered by Disqus