ES88 and GATE in Neurodiver

PAX West 2022

Read Only Memories: NEURODIVER refines the first game’s pixelated charms

Sci-fi? More like psy-fi.

MidBoss

I never thought I’d use the term “brainpunk” to describe anything other than Scarlet Nexus. Yet here we are: Read Only Memories: NEURODIVER dives into a neon-lit world where espers and hybrid creatures roam freely. Thanks to an artificial lifeform called a Neurodiver, which is basically a psychic slug with feelings, psychic detective ES88 can enter others’ memories.

ES88 is studying for her Neurodiver licenses exam when her friend GATE interrupts her with a special request. She introduces her to Crow, a human-animal hybrid who suspects his memory was altered 10 years ago during a deal gone wrong. GATE tasks ES88 with investigating the truth behind what happened between him and his friends in an overarching mystery. Ultimately, it comes across as a visual novel with colorful graphics, intuitive gameplay, and an intriguing premise.

A Neurodiver is an artificially created life form that lets espers dive into others’ memories.MidBoss

The Read Only Memories: NEURODIVER demo doesn’t dig into the “Golden Butterfly,” but that’s what the mystery is about. ES88 sets out to hunt a rogue esper with help from returning characters from Midboss’ previous game, 2064: Read Only Memories. They may or may not have something to do with Crow and his friends’ faulty memories.

NEURODIVER works like a point-and-click visual novel. One of the PAX West reps described it as a “love letter” to older Japanese mystery adventures like Famicom Detective Club. ES88 can dive into clients’ minds and investigate the highlighted items in their memories. Interactable items light up after you scroll over them to indicate they could be something worth looking at. ES88 comments on each item or interacts with selected people through the client in the memory to progress.

A distortion is an abnormal, static-ladden image that doesn’t match the rest of the memory — like the baby at the bar counter.MidBoss

Distortions appear like static on a television screen. They manifest as random images that don’t belong, like a giant baby at the bar counter or a kid flying a kite instead of a sketchy stranger. You then collect key items in memories and use them to untangle distortions. For example, I played a hackeysack-like game with a random guy in the client’s memory and won an item that was relevant to the deal gone wrong. It helped unravel the truth behind a distortion, revealing a memory that’d been altered in the past.

Read Only Memories: NEURODIVER challenges players to unlock pieces of its story with environmental puzzles. It has enough items to confuse the player with what’s important, but not so much that it’s difficult to figure out what to do. If you’re into visual novels with point-and-click gameplay, keep an eye out for this one or wishlist it on Steam.

Read Only Memories: NEURODIVER will launch for PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch in 2023.

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