2016 was a difficult year for many; there were farewells to heroes, incredible adversity and worse, but as we arrive in 2017 playing 2064: Read Only Memories during this first month might just make you a little more hopeful for the future. It’s one of the most emotionally heartfelt, authentic, and joyful journeys one can take in the medium and a celebration of everyone, no matter where you come from or how you identify. Nothing feels better than to go forward into the new year with an inclusive game that has as much heart as this one does.
2064: Read Only Memories is a cyberpunk adventure that takes place in the fictional setting of Neo San Francisco. It’s 2064 A.D, and society is grappling with how it handles the societal changes that technology’s rapid advancement has brought about. Technology has progressed to the point that humans and hybrids – humans whom, by using technology, have genetically modified themselves – walk and live among each other.
However, life isn’t easy for hybrids. Choosing to modify their bodies, regardless of whether it is for glamor or for survival, makes them susceptible to constant bigotry and discrimination from those who oppose progress. A group called The Human Revolution seeks to limit this integration of society and technology, claiming that such innovations are only ruining the pure human race. They wish to restore the old ways and view technology as doing more harm than good because of how it complicates societal rules.
In the middle of this struggle for equal rights are Relationship Organizational Managers (ROMs) – machines with no will of their own that assist humans and hybrids in their everyday tasks, helping to keep society in order. The story begins when a ROM named Turing comes to you for help in finding their creator, an old friend of yours who has just gone missing. Turing does this because they are the first of their kind; they are the world’s very first sapient ROM with a thought process and personality of their own. You agree to offer your aid and thus your journey of investigating your friend’s mysterious disappearance – and Turing’s own journey of identity and coming of age – begins.
2064: Read Only Memories is a narrative-heavy experience that operates similarly to a visual novel. Aside from clicking the screen to advance the text, you can point at and click objects to examine, touch, or talk to them. You have an inventory to store items in, and you can sometimes interact with other items on the screen by using things in your bag.
There are a few puzzle mini-games along the way to add some more active gameplay elements, but otherwise you’ll spend your time progressing through the story. You’ll do this by making choices as you talk to people and chase information to delve deeper into not only the mystery of Hayden’s disappearance, but also the dark political secrets that the vibrant city of Neo San Francisco hides.
These choices exist to impact your ending – which will be one of six possible endings that you can obtain. In total, I created eight saves for branching choices because I was curious about the differences that choosing different options would result in.
While some of these choices affect the two primary factors that determine your ending, other seemingly impactful choices ultimately don’t matter. One decision near the end seemed like it could mean the life or death of a main character, but when I went back to pick the other option, the only difference was the very next line of dialogue.
The narrative is one that contains not one slow or mundane moment in all its ten hours. One of the game’s biggest mysteries is left unsolved by the end – but this seems like a hook for a potential sequel rather than a dropped plot point, which I am more than happy to welcome. The journey you take with Turing is one so full of endearing, heartwarming, and beautiful moments that it’s hard not to immediately replay the game just so that you can keep on adventuring with them. Seeing Turing explore their identity as they grow from moments of happiness, grief, excitement, and fear is a powerful experience that has a deeply satisfying finish.
In addition to your energetic blue companion, an equally colorful cast of characters awaits. Many of these characters will subvert your misconceptions about who they initially seem to be and they all have individual stories and developments that make them multidimensional and memorable.
Both main and secondary characters have fantastic voice acting that further accentuates their personalities, making them feel as alive in their retro pixelated forms as do some of the characters in the most graphically powerful games to date.
Among these characters that you will talk to for information and befriend are people of color, nonbinary people, queer people, and all sorts of intersections in between. Representation matters, and the game illustrates that games can have a compelling story that isn’t about diversity while including a great degree of it at the same time. As Overwatch shines on the AAA forefront, 2064: Read Only Memories feels like the indie world’s latest champion for diversity, debunking the myth that games can’t be both fun and inclusive.
And my goodness – it’s so purely fun. It’s a thrilling, charming, and humorous game that celebrates many positive things at once with an almost childlike innocence, all while containing a deep mystery that has you constantly thirsting for more information. After a difficult past year, it’s the type of thing that is sorely needed right now as we tackle this one with newfound resolve and hope. 2064: Read Only Memories, with its contemporary and thought-provoking themes, accessibility through its diverse and rich characters, and beautiful story about what it means to be human, is an uplifting experience that I’ll remember for years to come.
Versions tested: PlayStation 4
Disclaimer: A copy of this game was provided to RPG Site by the publisher.