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Read Only Memories: Neurodiver Review

Memories of better days

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The wait to return to Neo-San Francisco has been longer than expected to say the least. Originally released in 2015, 2064: Read Only Memories has become a cult hit in the subsequent years. The cyberpunk adventure game earned praise for its vintage Anime-inspired looks and heartfelt storytelling. It made sense that developer MidBoss would seek to further flesh out the universe of the game. The sequel, Read Only Memories: Neurodiver, was announced in 2019, but was subsequently hit with several delays. With the game finally launching, it's time to find out if coming back to Neo-SF was worth the wait.

Read Only Memories: Neurodiver

Taking place six years after the events of 2064, Neurodiver is a mostly stand-alone new chapter in the series. In this entry, players step into the shoes of burgeoning psychic, or Esper to use in-game lingo, Luna, or ES88 as she is known as at Minerva, the secretive company she works for. Utilizing a crustacean-looking creature called a Neurodiver, ES88 has the ability to jump into people's memories to uncover information. Working alongside android partner Gate, ES88 is still learning the ropes of her position when she is called upon to help with her biggest case to date. Another psychic by the name of Golden Butterfly has started popping up and obscuring the memories of different Neo-SF residents. Although Minerva head Fortuna is light on details, they know that ES88 is one of the few beings out there capable of catching this criminal.

A lot of what made the first Read Only Memories such a treat for me was the colorful cast of characters, and Neurodiver continues to excel in that area. Luna's bubbly personality is endearing, and her developing relationship with Gate is well-built across the game's six chapters. The main supporting cast isn't large, but both Fortuna and fellow Esper Trace have their moments. And while you don't need to play the first game, seeing the supporting cast of that game pop up here as those under attack by Golden Butterfly was a nice treat. Sure, it comes across as a little shoe-horned in, but I still enjoyed seeing Tomcat, Lexi, Turing and Jess once again.

Read Only Memories: Neurodiver

It's a shame then that the plot, outside of the character moments, is as disappointing as it is. The idea of jumping into someone's memory to uncover pertinent information is fascinating, but the game never takes it in a satisfying direction. The memories you uncover are either too light or short to be engaging. In turn, this leads to Golden Butterfly getting little depth. The reveal of who they are, and their connection to ES88, falls flat. Credits roll shortly after that, and I couldn't help but be flabbergasted at how truncated this experience felt. Another smaller release, To The Moon, features a more emotionally stirring take on this premise. Something that probably would have helped is if the runtime was beefed up. I ran through the story in about three hours, which is a big drop off from the 10+ hours its predecessor provided. Longer length doesn't necessarily lead to higher quality mind you, but it would have helped here. It's tough to compare launch prices, especially with development costs being what they are these days, but it considering this title is retailing at $15, and the original launched at $20, I would say you got more bang for your buck before.

The gameplay of Neurodiver falls somewhere between a point-and-click adventure and visual novel. Each area is typically depicted as a static image with objects available for you to click on. This is done through dragging a cursor on-screen. It seems built for mice but works perfectly fine with a controller. Every object you can click on elicits some kind of response from ES88. Some of these objects provide important information or can be added to your inventory. Others are only around to provide additional background lore on the world.

Read Only Memories: Neurodiver

When you are jumping into a character's memory for work, the gameplay doesn't stray too far from what you were doing. Each client has blocks on specific memories which are depicted via an object that relates to them obfuscating it. For example, one character has a toy spider he likes covering up his missing memory. These barriers are cleared up by finding objects strewn about their memory. When you have the appropriate items, you will drag and drop them on top of the glitch in question. You do end up with more items than you will need, so there is some trial and error in order to find out what objects are actually important. However, there's no fail state when doing this, so you can mix and match until you get it right.

Even the biggest fans of 2064 probably wouldn't classify it as a gameplay-heavy title, so I came into this not expecting much on that front. However, the extremely limited nature of what's going on in Neurodiver was still disappointing to see. Figuring out what objects you need to use to unclog a memory wasn't challenging, and the lack of fail states removes any tension from the experience. It's frustratingly simplistic. And it can't even fall back on the visual novel aspects to elevate the experience. There's a sparse conversation in place, but 90% of the choices you make have no bearing on the overall plot. There are two major choices, with one of them coming at the tail end of the story. The other one you get to make has some weight, but is also easily brushed aside as it concerns a minor cast member. Between the limited gameplay and dialogue options, there's not a lot of meat to the game.

Read Only Memories: Neurodiver

At least the sequel retains the same charming visuals from its predecessor. Heavily inspired by classic 1980's Anime, Neurodiver features splashy colorful visuals and excellent character designs. With only a limited cast included, every character has detail that helps them stand out. From the crossbreed genetics of Jess to the glowing eyes of Fortuna, I loved seeing the care put into defining the cast. Neo-SF also remains a world I would love to see come to fruition. The city has clearly been outfitted with futuristic technology, but it doesn't come across as dystopian as you would see in other sci-fi settings. I also really enjoyed the voice acting and soundtrack. Again, with only a small cast to work with, the voice acting had to be top notch, and it thankfully is. To spotlight a specific performance, Daisy Guevara kills it as Luna. They give ES88 the right amount of energy to suit her bubbly and determined personality.

Read Only Memories: Neurodiver is a short and ultimately disappointing return for the sci-fi series. The gameplay is shallow to a fault, and the plot is too short to be truly engaging. Right when it feels like you are getting into the mystery, things begin to wrap up. There are elements of the sequel that remind you of the better days of the franchise, though. The cast of characters is small, but fun, and the visuals once again impress. However, those benefits aren't enough to make this worth recommending to anyone outside of fans of the original game. I hope this isn't the last we see of the ROM universe, as I know the potential is still there. Neurodiver just fails to take advantage of it.

Our ratings for Read Only Memories: Neurodiver on Xbox One out of 100 (Ratings FAQ)
Presentation
80
Although limited in scope, the throwback anime visuals of Neurodiver are fantastic. The character designs are memorable, and the world of the franchise is further fleshed out. Solid voice acting and soundtrack further enhance the vibes.
Gameplay
46
A cross between visual novel and point-and-click adventure, the title doesn't nail either aspect well. The lack of meaningful dialogue choices in conversation hampers an already weak story, and the simplistic puzzles offer little challenge.
Single Player
48
The mystery at the heart of Neurodiver fails to get going before you hit credits. With a brisk sub-four hour runtime, plot development is on a limited basis. There's some good character development, but that also could have been further fleshed out.
Multiplayer
NR
None
Performance
80
No noticeable issues with the title during my time with it on the Series X (note that the game is not officially optimized for Series X|S, and is an Xbox One release).
Overall
51
Read Only Memories: Neurodiver feels like a step back from its predecessor on just about every level. The plot is lacking in intrigue and severely underbaked, while the simplistic gameplay offers little challenge. While it's nice to get further detail on the universe of the series, this sequel severely disappoints.
Comments
Read Only Memories: Neurodiver
Read Only Memories: Neurodiver box art Platform:
Xbox One
Our Review of Read Only Memories: Neurodiver
51%
Mediocre
The Verdict:
Game Ranking
Read Only Memories: Neurodiver is ranked #1846 out of 1983 total reviewed games. It is ranked #37 out of 37 games reviewed in 2024.
1845. Firmament
PC
1846. Read Only Memories: Neurodiver
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