Rather than having the lasting impact of a distinct, vital recollection, Remember Me plays out like a stressful fever dream requiring the player to forget it. The game is an often muddled compilation of memory-centric sci-fi plots (shades of Kathryn Bigelow’s Strange Days abound), borrowed futuristic visuals, and a creatively restrained battle/platforming system in need of considerable retooling. The myriad cerebral theories presented in the game aim to be bold and innovative, but because of the way players are unadvisedly limited in their traversal of a 2084-set Paris, the blossoming of its customarily interesting ideas is ultimately restricted to the bud phase.
The high concept of being able to scrub through the recorded subconscious of others, remixing and reformatting their flashbacks to suit one’s needs is Remember Me’s rhetorical calling card, yet these sequences, arguably the game’s singular distinguishing feature, are spread thin over the roughly 12-hour main campaign. The task of trifling with someone’s recognition, niggling and tweaking the most minute details (erasing the existence of a gun’s safety to make them believe they’ve committed a murder, for instance), is good for a few rounds of curious exhilaration, but the inherent inventiveness of these segments is sadly absent from the remainder of the experience.
Remember Me opens as lead protagonist Nilin, a hunter of memories and an Errorist (essentially a rebel to the corrupt Memorize movement), is having her remembrances expunged by the opposition. Soon after, she’s hearing a mysterious guiding voice inside her head, called Edge, while uncovering the secrets of her clouded yesteryears and trying to understand just what it all means. Occasionally bogus dialogue and shoehorned-in metaphors are mild annoyances, and though Nilin is at times compelling (Kezia Burrows’s competent voice acting brings some much-needed life to the character), her mission to take down Memorize and unravel her past is consistently wanting for more instances of non-beeline travel. Developer Dontnod makes persistent enjoyment fairly difficult, as the game’s continually linear layout torpedoes impulses to explore the furthest reaches of Neo-Paris. Climbing and jumping provide little challenge, as nearly every scalable object is unsuitably stationary. There’s nary an Uncharted-esque surface collapse to be seen, and successfully completing each leap is fundamentally a given. A pair of orange brackets literally tell you where to shimmy next, removing any sort of thrill from navigating through passages and making them seem repetitive as a result.
The game’s combat functions lack individual style and an assertive flow. Controlling Nilin in the heat of assault is like working to rein in a stubborn breakdancer who’s hogging the dance floor. Verbose, frequently fitful combinations (minus a proper block command, no less) are the norm, and be it that there’s only a select few to choose from at any given moment, dispatching waves of similar-looking enemies becomes a chore within the game’s early stages. There is, however, a forgiving level of customization available within Remember Me. The Combo Lab allows for beneficial augmentation of attacks, adding instrumental bonuses like health boosts to certain strike patterns. Unlockable, visually busy special maneuvers give some incentive to perfectly handling Nilin in a pinch, and do well to break up the variously monotonous nature of beating undifferentiated foes to a pulp.
There are glimmers of a cult classic adrift in Remember Me’s foggy composition. It bares an obvious likeness to EA’s 2008 dystopian parkour escapade Mirror’s Edge, which was somewhat misunderstood upon release. Both games feature strong female leads, propose intriguing hypotheses, and offer glimpses into compelling futures, but where Mirror’s Edge allowed inspired gameplay to enhance its narrative, Remember Me strives to do the opposite and botches the execution. It’s not entirely a lost cause, and a sequel is definitely something to ponder, but Dontnod will have to do some serious memory-wiping of their own in order to wash away the mistakes made during their initial attempt at delivering worthiness.