Memoranda Review

It’s unique art style and interesting premise aside, Memoranda doesn’t have a lot going for it. The nonsensical story, 1-dimensional characters, and lack of direction or a clear idea of what to do next makes for a frustrating – not to mention brief – experience.

The game started out promisingly enough with insomniac Mizuki pacing her room, the source of her affliction, a red-eyed dwarf, vowing that as long as he couldn’t sleep, neither could she. The smooth animation, fully voice acted script, and bizarre, but beautiful art style created a distinct atmosphere and I was eager to find out how I’d be able to dispel Mizuki’s demon.

From there, the game makes a nosedive.

In typical point and click fashion, your protagonist is given a laundry list of tasks to complete in order to move the plot forward. Memoranda’s journal/quest log of choice called a memoranda and Mizuki updates it when you get something new to do. Unfortunately, she scribbles down personal notes the way one might in their own private journal, meaning that it may or may not make sense to someone other than the person who wrote it while these scribble notes fit in with the game thematically, a lot of them only gave the vaguest sense of what actually needed to be done.

This meant that I spent more time traveling from screen to screen, trying my most recently acquired item on people and trying to combine random items in my inventory.

Even the townspeople, who could have very well have made a helpful suggestion such as “Hey, have you spoken to so-and-so?” just continued to spit out one of their three pre-programmed lines, so they were of no help. I finally broke down and used the only guide posted in the community hub, which is why my playtime is only 4 hours.

One of those four were spent trying not to tear my hair out and the other three were actually spent playing the game with the occasional, infrequent glance at my handy, dandy guide.

In conjunction with the oftentimes obscure memoranda is the story itself. It’s based om a short story, so perhaps it’s my own fault for not having read that first, but the game just seemed to be a Frankenstein of parallel story paths that were strangely disjointed, but somehow relevant to the fact that Mizuki had trouble remembering her name.

The dwarf I mentioned earlier, for example, I had assumed had something to do with the missing name, but it turned out that he was just another random weird part of Mizuki’s life. Add to that a near-suicidal man who wants to be a fish, an investigator who is looking for a weirdly human-sized elephant and the runaway man who’s harboring him, a duck doctor who brews mysterious potions, a “dragon”, an opera singing man-cat, a deadbeat who vomits the peanut punch he was so desperate for a war between an army of frogs and a giant worm, a girl who killed herself and feared a monkey would steal her name – the list goes on and the majority of these tangents go on without a resolution.

Instead, you end up with a lot of unanswered questions and the sour taste of “that’s it”? When the credits roll, not too long after the game starts.

If this was an episodic game, fine. The confusion would likely be answered by subsequent chapters. As a completed work, however, Memoranda is like a machine with too many complicated working parts–Some of the parts just don’t function the way they should and instead serve as clutter.

In trying to make this plot complex and many layered, the creator only manages to needlessly convoluted the main plot—that is, the problem with Mizuki’s memory—with a bunch of fetch quests and 1-dimensional characters that serve no other purpose than to move the main plotline along.

And that fact shows. The other characters are people who Mizuki’s seems to be very familiar with and as such, it seems that she doesn’t need to explain anything about them other than their name and occupation. The art in Mizuki’s mind, however, nor have we shared any of her 30 years on Earth and so these strangers she chats with so warmly are held at arm’s length and are made stranger still by the fact that we have no idea why we should care about them or their problems.

This utter lack of character development makes the game feel even more like a chore because at no point do you feel empathetic towards any of the characters that appear once, say their peace, and a re never heard from again. There is nothing memorable about them other than the fact that they are strange people or creatures in a strange world–their motivations, likes and dislikes, and what makes them more than a plot device is lost.

Phil is the perfect example of an interesting characters rendered one-dimensional by loose ends. He’s mentioned early on and, indeed, his story seems to run parallel of Mizuki’s because she spends much of the game trying to figure out where he was located and, upon finding him, protecting him from being located by someone investigating the disappearance. After completing a few tasks geared towards helping him become a human, you find out that this weirdly proportioned elephant doesn’t actually want to be a human and the man who said he did was actually lying to keep you busy.

Which adds insult to injury considering these are clearly fetch quests.

After that, that’s it. You don’t find out why the elephant has gone missing, why the runaway man is harboring, or where they end up in the end. You just leave the elephant sitting in an armchair and talking gibberish  (apparently elephants speak gibberish) and the man cooking spaghetti. For all eternity.

The game looks great and the music is quite nice. The voice acting, however, leaves something to be desired. Personally, I found the main character’s very noticeable lisp maddening. Other voice actors sounded phoned in–as though they were recorded in a large, echo-y room or passed through some other medium like a phone and then recorded by a device.

.Pros.

  • Art style.
  • A cast of colourful characters and locations to visit.

.Cons.

  • The story is too convoluted for its own good. Multiple story paths lead nowhere, creating a mess of loose ends.
  • The voice acting isn’t great.
  • Those characters never get fully fleshed out.
  • The time it takes to complete the game just isn’t enough to fully explore all of the content presented.
  • Some of the solutions aren’t practical and can only be solved in one way.
  • Very few interactive points in many of the game screens.
  • No way to speed up actions. You can double click to move between screens, but you have to wait for Mizuki to slowly cross the room in order to pick something up or turn something on.
  • New objectives are added to the Memoranda with no indication of what needs to be done first. You can’t complete some objectives because there are others that need to be done before it.
  • The Memoranda itself is vague and nonsensical; the scribbling of a woman who is hovering on the brink of insanity.

.Bottom Line.

I found Memoranda to be subpar in terms of story and gameplay elements. It felt incomplete–the first episode in a series that you need to watch to completion in order to make sense of what’s going on. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately given the frustration I faced) there will be no more episodes, nor any explanations for the strange things you’ve seen. For 14.99, you get 3 hours of gameplay, up to 3 hours of wandering around, frustrated,  looking for the next thing, phoned in voice acting, and a host of characters that serve strictly as plot devices. This game could have been great, but it lacks that polished feeling of a finished product.

Avoid this one.

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@bonusstage.co.uk.

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