by Jason Parker (Ragachak)
I feel though I’m uniquely qualified among my coworkers to write this particular review. When I first stumbled upon the news that it was coming out, and that My Memory of Us would be a tribute to the families torn apart and destroyed by the Nazi march into Poland (Kampania wrześniow), I was curious beyond words. I’ve read in some other locations that other reviewers did not think the “Robot” for the Nazis did not work, but I can’t say I agree. Consider this: You’re a small child in a Polish village. It’s already clear that the Gentiles do not care for you, simply because you exist. At this time, the anti-Jewish sentiment was probably its strongest in Poland. Things are tense but peaceful. Then, out of nowhere, a ferocious, inhuman army marches into your home. You’re forced to wear something to signify to the world what you are, that you’re less than human. Now, suddenly, it’s okay to have these feelings, because those Jews don’t quite matter as much. I can see a child having this particular mindset. After all, I imagine many of those soldiers may as well be emotionless machines to a young Jew struggling to survive in a horrific time.
My Memory of Us is a tribute to those we lost in World War II when the Nazis (represented by the Machine King and his Robot Army) march across the land. Instead of wearing a Star of David, their clothes were painted red, which is a smart, interesting choice. This entire game is in black and white, except anything you interact with. Anything important in the game that the two kids that are the stars of this title interact with is a bright, gleaming red. That makes those people important by proxy. My Memory of Us is a puzzle game, and not a terribly long one. You can probably beat the whole game in about three hours or so, unless you get caught up in some of the puzzles, or become frustrated by the controls. That’s sure to happen, but I’ll get to it. You play as a boy and a girl who are not given names, and they listen to a narrative from Sir Patrick Stewart, who I was delighted to hear tell such a powerful story. The boy and girl meet early on and work together to survive in a dark, dismal time. But before everything goes to pieces, a boy and girl meet in a trying time, and he decides to try and steal a small cake for her because it’s her birthday and he wants her to have cake.
Each of the two children has particular skills to get through the various puzzles and predicaments they encounter across the 18 acts of the story. The boy, for example, can blind people with a light and crouch to avoid detection. If he is holding hands with the girl, she will also be undetected. The girl gets a slingshot to hit buttons, knock down fruits, and can also dash. They can also work together to push/pull heavy objects to climb up and down upon. There are times when you need to be together, and other times where you’ll be separated, where one completes a task so that the other can move forward. This does lead me to my major complaint about this game: The controls are clunky and awkward, and it’s very hard to tell if the children are holding hands if they’re too close to one another. Couple that with having to be in very precise spots on the map to interact with objects, it can be very frustrating. When you interact with another person in the world, they don’t talk. It’s a jumbled mess of jibberish, but a thought bubble shows up to give you a hint at what you need to do. This is tied to the puzzles of the game, and while it’s not overwhelmingly difficult, the game does not hold your hand or tell you what to do.
I’ve had to redo chase scenes four to six times a piece sometimes, because of the controls, not because of any actual difficulty. When you want to climb up or down something, you have to actively press up or down on the left stick instead of the game intuitively knowing you need to go down at this part of the object. This is even worse in stages where you’re being chased, or on a vehicle. It’s one of the two things that make me put this game down and come back to it later. The other being the story – it’s one that is very near and dear to me, being of a Jewish persuasion and having many family members that died not only in the Polish camps but across Europe.
The puzzles themselves from act to act are not terribly difficult. They’re pretty obvious once you figure them out. At first, a few of them really got me and I just sat there, staring at my screen in frustration, before I realized that nothing on the screen is there by accident. That’s important to note – from numbers to objects hanging from chains or ropes. Everything is there for a reason, and with a little detective work, this game can be overcome. I’m fine with the puzzles, but some of them frankly seem to have no rhyme or reason. I’m not sure why a lot of the underground puzzles even exist, for example. But I feel like the puzzles need to be there, or this is just a visual novel or a movie, and that sort of interaction with the world around you is important. As a child, you don’t really have many options other than survive, especially against this kind of overwhelming force. This is a very straight-forward game though, and the story is linear, but with “Memories” you can collect which are in the form of photographs scattered through the world.
Never Forget: Good (3.5/5)
This is a story of the horrors of war, of two people the world wants to split apart because one is “different”. The point where people suddenly start having to wear red really hit me hard, and I do have to step away from this game after playing for a while. The puzzles aren’t insanely challenging, and the story is well told. If it weren’t for a bucketload of bad control choices and designs, this would easily be one of my favorite puzzle games of the year. Sir Patrick Stewart being the major voice of the game really adds some gravitas to My Memory of Us, and I sincerely enjoyed taking this title for a spin. The last encounter’s kind of a strange one, since you spend essentially the entire game running and avoiding, only to fight back (but I won’t spoil it). The story from start to end was something I really felt, and I think that not just people with family who suffered the Holocaust would appreciate this. Anyone who has ever felt outcast, less than human, or unimportant to the world around them would probably get a lot out of this game. It all ties together with an ending that is 100% worth seeing.