Author Bruce Stirling one defined cyberpunk as being a combination of “low-life and high-tech”. 2064: Read Only Memories INTEGRAL certainly earns that description, but it also shoots for something a little loftier and more idealistic. This retrofuturistic point-and-click adventure game tackles weighty (and familiar) themes like what it means to be human and social inequality, but it does so with a great deal of warmth, humour, and positive progressive energy.
The Neo-San Francisco of MidBoss’s cyberpunk adventure is one marked by the usual disparity between rich and poor, with mega-corporations commandeering law enforcement and health care. This is a future where humans have begun to augment themselves, leading to emerging social rifts between those who choose to modify their appearance, those who don’t, and those who actively oppose the practice as being impure.
Alongside all of this civil upheaval, technology has reached a point where advanced robot assistants – or ROMs – are filling the role of low wage labourers. Humanity justifies this exploitation due to the fact that these robots aren’t truly sentient – yet.
Into this powder keg situation, and into your freelance hack’s care, drops Turing, a cute prototype ROM that claims to be the world’s first sapient machine. Turing’s genius creator has been kidnapped, and it falls to you and your digital sidekick to ascertain why. This is the cue for a classic adventure experience that draws from the point-and-click games of old. The developers openly reference the likes of Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers and Snatcher, but it will be familiar to any digital adventurers old enough to remember the late ’80s and early ’90s.
It’s essentially a series of static scenes (viewed through a retro-tastic letterbox), many of which you’ll revisit several times over, sifting for clues and engaging in branching conversations. Indeed, we should get the warning out right now that there’s an awful lot of dialogue in 2064: Read Only Memories INTEGRAL. For the most part, it streamlines and minimises the famously arcane point-and-click puzzles associated with the genre in favour of a focus on narrative.
You won’t find yourself stumped on elaborate fetch quests or tortuous item combination sequences here, nor will you be required to click on everything in a bid to progress the plot. Generally speaking, your progress through the game is logical and fairly seamless. This might be seen as a weakness by grizzled adventure fans, but is perfectly in keeping with the game’s inclusive tone.
There are various mini-game sections throughout the adventure, but these are highly simplistic and relatively brief. They certainly wouldn’t stand up to playing an extended part of proceedings, but in this form, they act as effective palate cleansers.
The meat of the experience here is undoubtedly the story, though. Fortunately, the writing and characterisations in 2064: Read Only Memories INTEGRAL are more than up to the task. Your companion, Turing, is a constant delight to spend time with – at once perilously vulnerable and plausibly capable. Their naivety and little idiosyncrasies (such as a fondness for botany) make them believably human – something that’s emphasised by an expressive emoji of a face.
The rest of the cast understandably gets less attention, but is still admirably fleshed out and atypically diverse in terms of race, gender identity and sexual orientation. The game’s world is rife with tension and discrimination, but the fact that the sources of this friction appear to have moved on from these basic areas feels oddly uplifting.
The entire cast is completely voice acted, and the performances are generally of a pretty high standard. This is accompanied by an evocative synth soundtrack, which nails that ‘retrofuturistic’ vibe nicely. Your interaction with the world arguably takes this approach a little too literally, though. Having to use the left Joy-Con stick to physically flick across all of the onscreen elements seems a little clunky, and it’s a shame there’s no direct touchscreen option available for handheld mode. In similar fashion, the four-strong interaction system of ‘Look’, ‘Touch’, ‘Speak’ and ‘Use item with’ seems a little crude and clunkily implemented; some kind of hold-and-release selection wheel, or maybe a direct mapping to the fascia buttons, would have been preferable.
Aside from these interaction issues, though, and a necessary warning over the game’s heavy focus on story over gameplay, 2064: Read Only Memories INTEGRAL is an easy recommendation to make for anyone after a new cyberpunk adventure. Or even a fairly old one.
2064: Read Only Memories INTEGRAL takes the classic point-and-click genre of old, strips out many of the annoyingly exacting puzzle systems, and injects a refreshingly positive and progressive outlook. A cast of memorable characters and some spot-on retro presentation should seal the deal for fans of a good story and snappy dialogue.