October 11, 2015 2:32 AM | Lena LeRay
MidBoss, LLC, the LGBTQ-focused company behind the GaymerX events and the film Gaming in Color, has released Read Only Memories. It's a point and click adventure game designed to provide an example of how including a more diverse cast of characters doesn't mean sacrificing quality of gaming experience, and it is a very good example. The game hooked me from the start and pulled me right along until the end, whereupon I discovered that I had several Skype messages that had come in whose alert sounds I hadn't even noticed.
In Read Only Memories, the player takes on the role of a writer barely making enough money to survive via freelance work. One morning, they wake up to find a robot sitting on their desk, having come in the night to seek their help. The robot, named Turing, is the first sapient AI entity. After Turing's creator, an old friend the player's character hadn't been in touch with in some time, was kidnapped, the little robot came in search of someone who could and probably would help but who wouldn't likely be suspected of helping. The player thus gets involved in helping to figure out what's going on and trying to rescue their old friend.
The journey that follows is steeped in heavy themes such as the responsible use of advanced technology, the nature of identity, and the lengths people will go to in the pursuit of power. Turing really shines throughout all of this. The little robot is really the main character of the game. The player gets to watch as Turing reacts to the obstacles, dangers, and machinations revealed along the way, displaying a wide range of emotions via some of the best facial expressions I've ever seen in a game.
Turing is far from being the only character in the game with depth. Even side characters you only talk to once or twice feel like real people, from the punk kids you have to chase down to the cafe owner who loves VR dramas with a passion and the guy running a legal-but-kinda-frowned-upon cybernetic implant business. It seems that MidBoss's commitment to a diverse cast led them to make sure that none of the characters were shallow and many of them are very different than their exteriors suggest.
The whole thing is very well written and all of the puzzles make sense in the context of what's going on. Players will never have to combine seemingly unrelated things in their inventories to make weird contraptions. The visuals and audio make it clear up front that Read Only Memories is heavily influenced by the point and click games of yore. Although the interface uses the modern convention of clicking interactable objects to bring up a wheel with a limited number of possible actions, they don't go so far as having a button to highlight everything that the player can interact with and only once did I feel like I was pixel-hunting without guidance.
There are probably some people who will disregard the game precisely because of its focus on a diverse cast, but I hope that number will be very low. Read Only Memories is a great point and click adventure with a thought-provoking sci-fi story rooted in modern tech and culture issues. Some of the trends predicted by the game feel very plausible.
Read Only Memories is available now for Windows, Mac, and Linux. At time of this writing, it's 10% off the regular $14.99 price tag for its launch.