A Memoir Blue - A Hazy Memory
Narrative Adventure titles have been booming in prominence over the recent years, from “walking simulators” to other titles that possess even fewer gameplay elements. The comparative lack of gameplay has been offset by a higher emphasis on storytelling in many of these cases, to varying levels of success. With its debut title, Cloister Interactive has aimed to develop an “interactive poem”, one that channels very little that most of us would consider “traditional gaming elements” with loose interactive elements bridging the gap between narrative exposition. Does this delivery approach leave you awaking with a vivid memory of an superb time, or is it like not getting enough REM sleep, and likely to be forgotten?
Annapurna Interactive has an eye for games that will bemuse just as much as they provoke deep introspective thought, and Cloister Interactive’s work, a tale of an elite swimmer reflecting on their life fits the bill perfectly. Through a more mature woman’s eyes, A Memoir Blue’s story is a brief but powerful reflective piece looking back upon the earlier years of her life, telling the tale of a mother and daughter through a series of flashbacks that highlight the difficult journey that the duo have lived through together. Players will interact with the world in a series of snapshots of the lead’s life – parallels can be drawn to the likes of What Remains of Edith Finch – though decidedly less dark in tone. There are several time jumps that players need to keep up with, though the length of these jumps themselves aren’t so enormous that you can’t piece together ideas of what may have played out in the middle – this expectation of the player is essential to get the most out of the A Memoir Blue experience – it’s what you infer from the scant details you’re given that can determine just how much the storytelling will resonate with you.
The narrative beats that the game hits will be familiar to all, no matter the walk of life you descend from; a mother overburdened, with the weight of the world upon her shoulders, an overachieving child carrying a similar weight, one of external expectation and pressure, and as a result of their respective plights we see both mother and daughter succumb to the pressures. The game primarily focuses on the daughter and how her story evolves as she grows older, which was disappointing, not because the daughter’s story was lacking, but because with the mother, it feels as though there was an opportunity missed to see her grow as her daughter does too.
The player input into the experience is all quite limited, with the game feeling as though at its core it was in fact a mobile game – though no such version exists. Small swipes and simple single-button inputs suffice as you progress further through the game. From interacting with buttons and levers at the helm of a boat to assembling the pieces of a fractured mirror, every interaction with the game is quite basic and unintrusive but simultaneously isn’t particularly satisfying either.
As an audio-visual experience, A Memoir Blue keeps things pretty simple – largely to good effect. There are two visual styles that the game alternates between, a more realistic look for the current day events and a more anime-inspired look for the flashbacks; these two styles play off one another quite effectively. The musical backing and total lack of spoken dialogue don’t strike a chord as well. The minimalist approach applied to the storytelling has been applied to the sound design, but in this instance, it feels like Cloister has gone for too little.
A Memoir Blue kept me guessing constantly throughout its 45-60minute duration. Every time I felt like I had a good sense of what this parent/child pairing had endured, another curveball would be thrown at me to keep me guessing, and then we’d move back to the present day and see how it impacts. There are some weird interactive elements, and the music (or lack of it) doesn’t quite click with the rest of the experience, but A Memoir Blue is a mature story, well told, and worth experiencing.
A Memoir Blue was reviewed on PS5 with code kindly supplied by the Publisher.