Read Only Memories: NEURODIVER

 

Review by · May 15, 2024

Read Only Memories: NEURODIVER is the long-awaited sequel to 2015’s indie darling 2064: Read Only Memories (which itself is a director’s cut edition of 2014’s Read Only Memories). NEURODIVER takes place six years after the first game and is both a sequel to 2064 and, according to the game’s Steam page, a jumping-in point for new players. NEURODIVER does this by introducing a new protagonist who has never encountered the previous game’s characters before, so they become new friends to new players while allowing series veterans to see what they’ve been up to. 

Protagonist ES88 (whose real name is Luna) is an esper (one who can use ESP to read minds) employed at Minerva, an information technologies corporation in Neo San Francisco. Natural-born espers like ES88 are quite rare and highly sought after by corporate entities like Minerva. Because of espers’ rarity, Minerva’s R&D department is working on creating powerful synthetic espers. Their early-stage result is an experimental cuttlefish-type creature called the neurodiver. The neurodiver is specially bonded to ES88 (who acts as the creature’s caretaker) and allows her to dive into people’s psyches to restore anomalies in their memories. This is an invasive and very risky endeavor, because one wrong move could spell doom for everyone involved.

The Neurodiver in Read Only Memories: NEURODIVER
The titular neurodiver. Isn’t it cute?

Missions with the neurodiver, so far, have been nothing to write home about and ES88 desperately wants a more exciting chance to show what she and the creature are truly capable of. Wish granted, because a dangerous rogue esper named Golden Butterfly is infiltrating and corrupting people’s memories. Naturally, only ES88 and the neurodiver have the power to counteract this threat. Of course, things aren’t always as they seem and ES88 often finds herself questioning her morals and actions throughout the game.

A single playthrough of NEURODIVER only took me about 5 hours and it ended before it even got warmed up. I enjoyed what little time I had with it, but was left wanting a LOT more. I wanted more heartfelt conversations between ES88 and GATE (her and the neurodiver’s bodyguard). I wanted more cringeworthy shenanigans with Harold (the prankster laboratory tech at Minerva). I wanted more time with Crow, Lexi, and all the people whose memories ES88 helped fix, because I barely got a whiff of their interesting stories and no real closure on any of them. I hope there is more content for NEURODIVER in the works, because this game begs for it. 

ES88 is armed only with her wits (and the neurodiver) to rectify memory anomalies via basic point-and-click adventure style problem solving. Observing the environments, clicking on relevant items/clues, and putting them together to solve corrupted memory conundrums comprise the majority of the gameplay. The puzzles themselves lack variety and are pretty easy; no “cat hair moustache” puzzles here. Only one or two gave me a sliver of trouble because I didn’t pixel-hunt closely enough to pick up necessary clues.

Fixing memories in Read Only Memories: NEURODIVER. A mermaid sits at a table in a bar while characters discuss the situation via a text box  and portraits.
ES88 must find clues to fix corruptions (like this one) in peoples’ memories.

NEURODIVER also features visual novel elements where decisions are presented throughout the script. The game follows a linear path so decisions are mostly there just to add flavor. The journey and destination are the same regardless of the player’s decisions, but a couple choices affect the overall mood of the journey and ending.

A mouse is the best way to play NEURODIVER, though the game is quite playable with a gamepad. The menu interface gets the job done, but is limiting in some ways. For example, there is no fast forward option to skip through previously read dialogue when replaying the game. I had to quickly click through everything and often found myself clicking through decisions because the game couldn’t stop to let me choose. I wanted to see how all the dialogue options flavored the text and was unable to do that smoothly.

Jess and TOMCAT make a return in Read Only Memories: NEURODIVER. They are having a discussion in a store of some kind, via text box and character portraits.
Jess and TOMCAT are two of the interesting characters ES88 meets.

There is no denying that NEURODIVER‘s visual and aural aesthetics are lovely. The overall artistic design is a happy blend of modern and retro. Striking pixel art environments and characters feature vivid colors that just leap off the screen and cool animations that enhance everything. NEURODIVER‘s world is filled with all kinds of unique-looking characters whose art strikes a balance between anime and western art styles. Excellent voice acting brings these characters to life and Ken “coda” Snyder‘s evocative chiptune soundtrack wonderfully sets appropriate moods for places and situations. 

Few games have left me feeling as uncertain as Read Only Memories: NEURODIVER has. I liked the game and think it’s good, but it left me noticeably unsatisfied. The characters ES88 meets are pretty cool, but their development stopped before their storylines gained any traction. Once the credits rolled, my reaction was, “Huh? That’s it?” I completed the game multiple times, doing everything there was to do, but still felt like something was missing. I hope there is more content in the future to flesh out what Read Only Memories: NEURODIVER started.


Pros

Stylish graphics, good sound (music, voice acting), intriguing characters.

Cons

No fast forward option for replays, too short.

Bottom Line

A decent game that ends before it begins.

Graphics
85
Sound
85
Gameplay
75
Control
75
Story
70
Overall Score 78
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Neal Chandran

Neal Chandran

Neal is the PR manager at RPGFan but also finds time to write occasional game or music reviews and do other assorted tasks for the site. When he isn't networking with industry folks on behalf of RPGFan or booking/scheduling appointments for press events, Neal is an educator, musician, cyclist, gym rat, and bookworm who has also dabbled in voiceover work and motivational speaking.