By Ashley Ring / September 1st, 2016
|Release Date||July 8, 2016|
One of my favorite aspects of getting to play a new horror game is having no idea what it might throw at me. Going through a new experience rather than a sequel to a series I’m familiar with means new opportunities to be unsettled. When looking at Memento for the first time, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Since it’s a horror title made in RPG Maker, I was initially skeptical of what it would be able to accomplish. Despite being made in RPG Maker, Memento does have an interesting premise unique from anything I’ve played before. Is its unique premise enough to create a satisfying horror title through RPG Maker, or is it better off forgotten?
In Memento you play as a silent protagonist named Shizuru. As she and her class visit a museum on an island where a war once took place, she quickly finds herself separated from her class and in danger. As she explores the island, she encounters a bunch of wreckage from weapons and machines that were used in the war, which have come to life and are chasing after her. This premise alone was enough to get me interested in playing the game. The idea of being pursued by living abominations of very old war relics is new and different from the usual humanoid monsters in many horror games.
Memento does manage to make some decently frantic moments with this premise, but the cost comes at the price of an enjoyable game. Much of Memento’s game design revolves around trial and error. There were many occasions in the game where I either figured out something by accident, or figured it out by dying a dozen times. Shortly after the second encounter with a machine come to life, you are given the task of saving a young girl from 3 porcupine monsters. There is no combat in Memento, so much of the game involves figuring out how to get past obstacles. I was unsure of what I was expected to do with these porcupines at first. It was only after several minutes and one death later that I accidentally figured out you’re supposed to walk towards a specific ledge to trick them into falling off of it. This is what I would consider one of Memento’s more tolerable puzzles.
More frustrating are Memento’s use of very cheap deaths. At one point, I was walking around looking for a submarine-lizard monster’s children to bring back to her. Unfortunately, the route to the missing child had instant death pitfalls that have no visual distinction from the rest of the ground. This entire scenario, while short, is very annoying because you don’t know where any of these instant death pits are, and each time you reload your game, you have to watch the cutscene before it all over again. It was at this point of the game when I was questioning the overall design decisions made.
To alleviate some of this frustration, Memento is very generous with the amount of save points. One of the things I appreciated with the save points is, while they all involve the same general shape, they are all presented very differently. In Memento you can save your game whenever you see a cross in the area. The cross that you see however, is always different. It may be a cross in a painting on the wall, drawn on the ground, or even a statue for prayer. I thought this was a nice touch to give each moment of relief something new and different. However, sometimes save points can be hard to notice as well.
Much of Memento may be frustrating, but there still are some moments in the game that were really well done. About halfway through the game you end up in a vacant house. As soon as you step out of the room you were resting in, you are presented with a dark hallway where you have to turn on the lights. However, turning on the lights in this house isn’t as simple as flicking one switch. Each light that you turn on turns off the light behind you, leaving you unable to see what’s behind you. It’s little slower paced moments like this that I really appreciated. This entire section of the game is, for the most part, really good. It has a decent sense of exploration, it’s eerie, and gave me the feeling that I was being stalked. This part of the game does contain a fairly annoying but short chase sequence that requires some very specific steps you take or it’s a guaranteed death. It thankfully doesn’t hurt this section of the game too much.
When it comes to the story of Memento I felt it was a mixed bag. It’s intriguing, but lacks a lot of development of any of its characters that we’re supposed to feel sorry for. We get to explore the office of one of the game’s antagonists, whom you’re supposed to feel sorry for, but instead of letting us examine his notes and bookshelves, the game just gives a generic message about how “there are notes here” most of the time. If there was more information in these notes, the story could have been a lot more interesting and emotional. It’s not all bad though. There are some moments in the story that are cute, and the normal and good ending did make me teary eyed despite the lack of development of these characters. It just feels like it could have been so much more. There are also multiple endings you can get based on your actions and what optional paths you might have completed.
When it comes to its graphical and sound presentation, I actually really liked Memento. Its graphics range from fairly simple to really nice looking. The outdoor areas have a lot more detail and texture to everything, while the indoor areas look a little bit more plain, but make good use of lighting and shadow effects. The level design is mostly good, and the small and linear maps help make the frustrating design a little less frustrating. The character sprites are cute, while the enemies you’ll have to outsmart are nicely detailed for the most part, and animated in a way that gives each sequence a frantic feel. The sound design is fairly mixed for me. The music when you’re being chased is frantic and fitting for the occasion, and when some eerie ambiance does play, it manages to create a great sense of dread. Most of the game however, is silent. I do think silence can actually be great sound design when used appropriately, but a large amount of this game is silent, sometimes even your character’s footsteps, leaving you with nothing to hear at all.
Memento is full of frustrating moments that have very little pay off by the end. The story is intriguing and emotional, but could have been so much more. Thankfully, the game is very short. My first playthrough was around 3 hours, which mostly includes my deaths. My actual in-game timer for the game was roughly an hour and a half. My second playthrough was less than an hour long because once you know what you’re doing, all of the game’s design becomes trivial and you can plow through it fairly easily. I will say, my second playthrough did make me appreciate some of the more subtle aspects of the story. Even at its low asking price of $5.99, Memento is a hard game to recommend.
Review copy provided by the publisher.