Read Only Memories: Neurodiver 

Review: Read Only Memories: Neurodiver

You know that feeling when you just really enjoy something so much that you find yourself burrowing deep into a piece of media so much that you end up trying to replicate it and end up making it something very much different from what it originally was?

This is very much the case with Read Only Memories: Neurodiver — the second game in the Read Only Memories standalone story universe.

Read Only Memories: Neurodiver takes the colourful, comfy, and kitsch retro-futurist world that made 2015’s 2046: Read Only Memories an instant classic and uses it to write its own detective story that leans hard into its inspirations and passions and ends up feeling a bit light a headache.

Read Only Memories: Neurodiver is future-forward

As I said, Read Only Memories: Neurodiver is a standalone story that plays in an existing universe, making it necessary to tell a new story with enough nods and Easter eggs to what has come before.

Player character and psychic detective Luna — or ES88 as she’s better known — would feel right at home in an Ace Attorney game. She’s a bubbly, overly-excitable Esper who is able- with her self-described ‘super worm’ the Neurodiver- to dive into people’s minds to reach their memories and help them come to self-realization.

Luna and her bodyguard Gate — who is mentally guarding more than just a bit of a crush on Luna — help the Nurodiver each chapter in helping people overcome psychic attacks, which are like cyberattacks on humans that leave their memories in fragments and result in a severe loss of personality.

read only memories neurodiver review 1

Much like its predecessor, Read Only Memories: Neurodiver flaunts a futuristic take on very modern themes of body modification, corporate identity and power structures, privacy and personal freedom, and gender and representation norms. These tough topics are presented with colourful and glitchy flair and social contexts heavily laced with comic, anime, and gaming references and tropes that are often over-the-top. There’s a lot to take in here, which can sometimes feel too much.

However,  Read Only Memories: Neurodiver starts to bring it all together in a way that makes you feel like there’s been a throughline.

View Only Memories

Where Read Only Memories: Neurodiver is at its best is in visuals.  If you’ve read things like my preview of Stonks-9800, you’ll know I’m a massive fan of bright ’80s vapourware aesthetics. And Read Only Memories: Neurodiver manages to nail these in a nostalgic way while feeling intensely future-forward.

Richly colourful backgrounds establish mood, while absurd character models of anime girls, punk extraterrestrials, and even a few hunky furries round out a highly-individualized cast that manages to add depth to a world that is primarily backgrounds.

Because — as its name suggests —Read Only Memories: Neurodiver is a visual novel with the occasional point-and-click logic puzzle, rolling text needs to pop occasionally. And pop, it sure does!

A central narrative theme of the game is how losing oneself leads to fear, anger, sadness, and generally any other feeling associated with bad or wrong things.  Tightly animated, highly capitalized text rolls pair perfectly with wild character image animations to make these sections pop.

A rival Esper shouts at Crow for interrupting his monologue.

Music Makes Memories

It wouldn’t be an authentic ’80s throwback without the dulcet tones of synthwave in the background, and Read Only Memories: Neurodiver delivers there.

Washington-based chip-tuner Ken Snyder [Coda] composes an original album that takes its tones from the Yamaha YM2608 [OPNA] sound chip that allowed 80’s computer sound to twinkle.

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That twinkly really forms the basis of Read Only Memories: Neurodiver‘s wistful way of using music to evoke the mind.

Tempos here are often slow and methodical, fitting into detective fiction. But now and then, they’ll come to life with jazz-like refrains that remind you that this is a hopeful game about making peace with who you are.

Every bit of this soundtrack is perfect for the environment this game presents.

Verdict

Read Only Memories: Neurodiver is another stellar entry into what I’m sure will continue to be a fantastic universe of visual novels set in a cyberpunk work where all you’ve got is yourself. What’s on offer here is an endearing — if just a little over-packed story — of navigating an increasingly media-heavy world while maintaining what makes you who you are. Where it’s at its best is when it’s reminding us of the emotions that come with losing that. This one is short for the cost of entry but will keep you thinking long after it rolls credits.

Recommended

[The publisher provided a copy of the game for review purposes.]

Reviewed on: PC

Read Only Memories: Neurodiver 
Review: Read Only Memories: Neurodiver
Summary
Read Only Memories: Neurodiver has a lot to live up to as a standalone sequel to 2015's 2046: Read Only Memories, and it delivers with a story that is full of personality and '80 retro future feels. it's short, sweet and maybe just a little too packed with callbacks and pop culture references. But it's sure to leave you thinking about it.
Liked
A lovely story set in a lovely-looking world
Incredible soundtrack
short and sweet
stuck in the past, but forward-thinking
Didn't Like
Can be overloaded with Easter eggs and pop culture references that slow things down
8
Recomended