2064: Read Only Memories (A New Cyberpunk Adventure)
Format: Point-and-click adventure game
Released: (Originally) 2015
Available on: PC, PS4, Xbox One, OS X, Linux, Switch
Platform Played: PC (via Steam)
What is it?
2064: Read Only Memories is a cute cyberpunk point-and-click adventure game that acts as an homage to older adventure games while also remaining very aware of its place within the cyberpunk genre’s theme of “low-life and hi-tech”, and the modern landscape of gaming. It’s vibey, woke and engaging.
How much have I played so far?
Three hours, an hour on my original save, half an hour on the second save (which I lost), and then another hour and a half when I restarted. So, not actually that far in, despite the number of hours banked.
What did I think?
The first thing that struck me about 2064: ROM is how it totally owned its retro style. Right from the title screen, it has a confidence in visual and sound design that is utterly charming, and everything looks and sounds great for a polished pixellated look that is refreshing in a world of realistigraphical intensity. The writing is excellent, avoiding the common adventure game trope of an overly-slow start (though it does require a little patience, since it’s dialogue-driven and a point and click adventure).
The opening cutscene introduces the world with unmistakable attitude, from neon-lit grimy bars to glass high-rises, embodying the “combination of lowlife and high tech” (to quote Bruce Sterling’s much-overused preface to Burning Chrome). It quickly gets the plot started through its utterly adorable robot, Turing, who gently sidles into your life to berate you for not talking to your dying houseplant enough and sets about assiduously getting round to all the things you haven’t. I’m not usually the sort to become enchanted by some small high-pitched humanoid thing I’m meant to care about, but Turing got me onside pretty quickly, more so as we explored the mystery of their creator’s disappearance together. I very much want to go into the many elements that make this game wonderful in depth (I hope you appreciate my restraint) but I’ll just say that through Turing, the game takes full advantage of the opportunity to explore those classic Cyberpunk/Sci Fi questions of what ‘personhood’ really is, the nature of free will and the responsibilities of creation. It’s character-driven and diverse, and has a snarky sense of humour to balance Turing’s wide-eyed optimism. Every non-background character you run into has a well-written story and a personality of their own – I’m particularly fond of TOMCAT, a down-home Southern non-gender-conforming hacker.
The point-of-view character (who gets a little more attitude than many faceless protagonists through the dialogue) is a down-on-their-luck journalist acting as a corporate shill in a cyberpunk future. As with all good cyberpunk narratives, reflections of modern society creep in round the edges, from the protagonist’s comments about working journalists having to review headphones to be able to pay the bills to the fact that the first female quarterback in the main American football league has accusations of illegal cybertech thrown at her (because she could never keep up with the men on her own, right?)
Mechnically speaking, the game is pretty basic and linear, with a few choice nodes but mainly using dialogue choices to influence how the story changes. Your context-sensitive radial hover menu has four actions: examine (an eye), interact (a hand), talk to (a mouth) and use something in your inventory (a backpack). The game doesn’t explain these, but anyone with fluency in adventure game mechanics will no doubt enjoy exploring with these variants on classic icons – and for anyone who’s new to the form, it’s a little disorienting, but they are relatively self-explanatory.
It doesn’t explain any mechanics particularly well, but it’s also not really the kind of game where that matters too much. The only criticism I would level is that the explanation of saving comes after you’ve been playing for quite a long time, and the save system is a bit clunky, which led to me losing some gameplay time and almost made me give up. Sure, if you have basic common sense ( ¬.¬ ) it shouldn’t be a problem, but little things like that can make a big difference.
And yes, in classic point-and-click style, there is an abundance of wryly humorous lines when you insist on trying every combination of actions and objects, but it doesn’t feel like padding.
So many Cyberpunk narratives only treat the genre as a series of trappings, or go so far down their edgelord grim and gritty/corporate chrome feel that they lose track of what they were trying to say. 2064: Read Only Memories proves that a Cyberpunk game can be colourful, fun and emotionally rich while still tackling deep and nuanced concepts.
Will I play more?
Probably, yes. I’m not great at finishing adventure games (or computer games generally) and ones that require any kind of patience for sitting through text are a challenge, but I really like the writing, style and worldbuilding of this one. While I’m not yet particularly interested in the mystery, there’s enough there to keep me pushing forwards. When I initially lost the save I started for this blog post (after closing the game without saving) I wondered whether I would bother going back to it. In the end, though, I found myself just as engaged despite this small annoyance and I do intend to finish it.
Who would I recommend it to?
Anyone who likes…
- …well made adventure games in a classic style.
- …dialogue- and character-driven gameplay that affects the narrative.
- …cheery cyberpunk that never forgets the dominant themes of humanity and wealth inequality.
- …adorable robots and questions about what it means to be human.
Up next on GG: Explore a marvellous second world fantasy with me in 80 Days!