'Read Only Memories: Neurodiver' First Impressions: Memory-Diving Mystery Oozing Personality
Ahead of its release, we got a chance to check out the first two chapters of 'Read Only Memories: Neurodiver.' Here are our first impressions.
Upon delving into the mind of private investigator Lexi Rivers, her sleepy loft office vanished, superseded by a vision of a snazzy golden room with pink hologram screens. This memory followed Lexi’s police officer days, spotlighting an old case where an illegal robot transport operation fiddled behind the scenes of a luxurious resort train.
Lexi’s recollection of the event was patchy — someone or something had tampered with her subconscious. It had to be Golden Butterfly, a rogue psychic known for scrambling the minds of select individuals. My mission was to hunt them down by investigating and mending the damage done, slowly untangling their perplexing motive.
Read Only Memories: Neurodiver is a point-and-click adventure game with an intriguing mystery and puzzling gameplay beats reminiscent of the Ace Attorney series.
It has a perky personality, from its distinct and queer characters to the groovy retro-infused soundtrack, delivering a motley of melodic ‘90s Japanese pop and 16-bit era vibes to jam out to.
Before its Q3 2023 release, Distractify received a Neurodiver demo code focused on the first and never-before-seen second chapter. Here are our first impressions.
‘Read Only Memories: Neurodiver’ is a memory-diving mystery adventure unfolding in Neo-San Francisco.
Neurodiver is the next adventure by MidBoss that returns fans to the cyberpunk heart of Neo-San Francisco from 2064: Read Only Memories, which debuted in 2015.
Fans of the Read Only Memories franchise will again meet up with several characters from 2064: Lexi Rivers, gene-splicer and hybrid lawyer Jess Meas, the notorious hacker TOMCAT, and plenty more.
Taking place years after 2064, Neurodiver will attempt to expand the barriers of Neo-San Francisco by introducing new characters, locations, overhauled art, and mechanics.
Players will step into the shoes of ES88, aka Luna Cruz De La Vega, an energetic telepath and manga nerd employed at a neurotechnology and extrasensory projection organization called Minerva.
ES88 is a giddy and relatable protagonist who grounds players throughout this futuristic setting. She can be odd at times due to the bizarre catchphrases she rips from her favorite galactic-fighting manga series, but it becomes endearing and keeps the experience upbeat.
With her memory-diving abilities, ES88 strides into her role as a psychic detective, scouring the remembrances of locales to track down Golden Butterfly.
The premise of chasing a powerful telepath with a rich cyberpunk world as the backdrop was fascinating to unravel to me. It’s a concept MidBoss executes well. The world is filled with colorful characters, like the sultry bodyguard Gate and Halloween-obsessed Harold, each carrying the torch until the next gameplay segment.
Investigate, find clues, and plug them in correctly to beat back psychic ghosts.
Once inside the mind of another, ES88 will jump into their body and take control of the memory. Based on my demo, this usually leads to a player investigating the zone and clicking on items to glean information or discuss with NPCs.
For instance, the first chapter follows recovering a coworker’s password; however, players must destroy a psychic ghost covering their computer screen by puzzling together the right combo of discovered items.
The cycle was fresh, but in retrospect, Neurodiver felt mechanically lean. The demo isn't final, but nothing exciting happened gameplay-wise besides the core investigative loop of collecting objects and solving a few easy puzzles.
The second chapter surrounding Lexi’s past case is more-or-less the same but grander in scale as players travel from multiple rooms and piece together what happened. Though, I couldn’t tell you if there are any gameplay curveballs because I encountered a glitch that walled off the later parts of the chapter.
I’m hopeful the final product addresses the bug and isn’t as skinny in the gameplay department when it launches.
Select dialogue choices to gain context or learn more about characters.
Players will also select dialogue choices for ES88. Some options are impactful, dripping context about Gate’s book reading habits, or devolving a conversation into a silly back-and-forth between characters.
There weren’t any game-changing dialogue choices within the demo, but Neurodiver boasts multiple endings determined by these decisions.
While most player-led conversation options were great, a few would have worked better if ES88 naturally said them. A few segments involved choosing between three different ways to effectively say “yes,” which undermines the importance of player choice in these instances.
Striking a balance between making these alternatives worthwhile and knowing where to cut unnecessary ones while keeping a brisk pace would juice up the experience more.
Besides the bug and gameplay kinks, Neurodiver has a fantastic aesthetic and builds momentum off the back of its great characters. The demo was a relatively short slice that didn’t take over an hour to complete, but I enjoyed venturing through futuristic urban environments and watching characters gush with emotion during conversations.
These aspects show promise that Neurodiver could pull off threading a world decorated with personalities to lure players further into its mind-diving mystery.
But what will make or break Neurodiver is whether it expands its gameplay mechanics beyond what the demo offered and the impact of player dialogue choices later. MidBoss has a firm grip on the game’s identity but could lose it if the final product is riddled with technical blemishes and lacks gameplay diversity.
Read Only Memories: Neurodiver will release sometime in Q3 2023 for PS5, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, and PC.