Don’t Forget Me – Remembering Conspiracy
When capital N Narrative games come out to play, it’s important that they bring a story worth paying attention to. The Moon Pirates’ debut game Don’t Forget Me struggles a little under the weight of its subject matter, but only thanks to its drive to explore the idea of memory in all its possibilities, with as little filler as possible.
Pulling from the tried and true ‘narrative with branching paths’ formula, Don’t Forget Me aims to weave a cyberpunk tale of what memory truly means to us, and what it could mean if our fundamental capacity to remember was threatened. Built on top of that visual novel-style narrative is a text-based mechanic giving you the power to extract and examine those memories in search of a deeper truth.
This text mechanic is what sets Don’t Forget Me apart, and it’s a neat addition. Digging into people’s memories requires threads to pull on. Begin with a keyword – say, “memo” – and from the description of that memo, begin expanding out with other keywords. The memo might mention a “meeting”, for example.
It’s a difficult needle to thread, but The Moon Pirates have managed to pull it off fairly well. With only a few potential branches at any given moment, the thousands of potential words are staggering, yet I never ended up so stuck I had to ask for help. The “worst” things got were several minutes thinking over potential solutions, before managing to figure out the correct word to move toward my goal.
This is great not only as a novel mechanic but a clever story device. You really have to think about the story you’re experiencing – if you haven’t been paying attention, well for one, what are you doing playing a story focused game, but two, it’s much easier to get caught up in the world when knowledge investment is necessary to continue onward.
As a narrative, it’s… easy to see this is a first outing. That’s not necessarily a bad thing mind you – Don’t Forget Me has a lot it wants to talk about. The flip side is, Don’t Forget Me has a lot it wants to talk about. When a play-through lasts a couple of hours, there’s only so much that you can pack in, and the fast clip at which heavy subject matter pops up, again and again, leaves little room for characters to breathe.
On one hand, it’s kind of nice to not be filled with a bunch of content that seems irrelevant, taking a long time to wrap around to the point the game wants to make. On the other, the story beats it wants to hit don’t feel as earned, and the character moments not as impactful as a result. You don’t really have a sense of these people outside the immediate situations – it’s plot over character or more characterisation solely in service of plot. It would be nice to spend some downtime in general with these characters, get attached to and care for them in ways the developers very clearly do, so when the moments of dramatic tension crescendos, it hits you right in the feels.
As a result of the myriad of ideas at play, things do get lost in the shuffle somewhat. Every narrative through-line in the game is centered around memory; the basis of which is formed around – at first anyway – the preservation of it.
What memories people choose to canonise in this fiction draws parallels to current day social media – the most joyous of occasions, significant milestones and the like. However, almost immediately, this idea is discarded in favour of another. Not long after that, the moral complications around that are cast aside for a new problem of world-shattering scale. The leaps between each are a little jarring, insofar as you’ve only just wrapped your head around the current one before you’re whisked away to the next.
Every idea brought to the table is an incredibly cool base to build a narrative from. All pulled together however, it becomes a lot to handle. It’s still easy to admire The Moon Pirates’ work though. It feels less like an incoherent mishmash of cyberpunk soup, and more like a team whose excited ambition may have outsized the cart it was pulling. I’ll always have time for the work that shoots high but might not quite land, over the generic, bland same-old any day.
Don’t Forget Me may not completely pay off the cheque it wants to cash. It can oscillate a little wildly at times, almost leaving you in the dust as it rushes to its next beat. But it’s a story that wants to talk about something, with a neat mechanical twist on the old branching narrative game to boot. For a freshman effort by a budding French team, it’s a neat experience worth paying attention to.
Don’t Forget Me was reviewed on PC via code graciously provided by the publisher.