I lament the fact that I wasn’t old enough (or even alive, depending on the year) to enjoy the advent of the cyberpunk genre. Being born in the early 90s, I was just a little too young to soak in (or even understand) the likes of titles such as Blade Runner or Rise of the Dragon, during their heyday. It’s sad, really, but there’s nothing that I can do about it. And now that I’m older, I can enjoy those things all that I want (which I do!). But there’s always been one thing that’s bothered me about the cyberpunk genre — the fact that, as far as new content is concerned, there’s too little content being distributed. That doesn’t mean that we never see this ironically antiquated-yet-futuristic genre pop up from time to time. And, wouldn’t you know it, 2064: Read Only Memories is one of the latest instances of such a resurgence.
I won’t beat around the bush. When I first started playing 2064, I wasn’t sure what to expect from it. But I knew what I wanted from it; another Snatcher. Yes, yes, I know. Expecting an indie title to deliver the same experience as Kojima’s masterpiece of a dystopian adventure game isn’t exactly right. And, to be fair, I wasn’t expecting it to be of the exact same caliber. Just something, you know, similar. And, do you know what? I did get Snatcher. Or rather, a Snatcher. Something that had a lot of good points, and something that looked and felt like an old-school cyberpunk adventure — especially on the outside — but was just off-kilter enough to stop it from feeling like the next “modern-day classic”.
I Think, Therefore…
2064 begins where all good cyberpunk adventures begin; with you, a sloppy-yet-well-intentioned freelance writer of a protagonist, just trying to get some work done. Your work being to review a pair of headphones, in this case. However, just as you sit down to begin writing their review… just kidding! For once, you actually get your work done (which is a bit surprising in itself for a game like this). Things begin to go topsy-turvy the next day, though. Upon waking up the next morning in your dingy apartment you are immediately greeted by a small, strange, blue robot (who somehow managed to break into your apartment). Introducing themselves as Turing, the first-ever sapient robotic life form, the robot explains to you that Hayden, their creator and an old friend of yours, has gone missing and that, based on statistical probability, you’re the person most likely to lend a helping hand. And, wouldn’t you know it, Turing was right. What Turing didn’t know, however, was the danger that the two of you would soon be dragged into.
As far as narrative basics go, 2064 checks off a lot of the right boxes when it comes to what a cyberpunk should be. However, the way it accomplishes this is somewhat strange. Truthfully, I didn’t find 2064‘s narrative to be terribly unique. It’s yet another story that follows an unlikely hero and their quirky companion getting mixed up in something bigger than themselves and trying to save the day. However, it does so within the confines of a cyberpunk setting — a setting which is very rarely used today. Because of this, it’s a little easier to see past something which could otherwise be considered cookie-cutter. And this, combined with 2064‘s uncanny knack for skillfully creating a fresh visual representation of the cyberpunk world which, while uncharacteristically clean in most areas, is bright, vibrant, and very appealing to look at, comes together to create a base narrative with some definite potential to pull its players in (even if it was a little on-the-nose with certain things at times).
Unfortunately, I wasn’t quite as sold on 2064‘s cast as I was its premise. 2064 features a quirky group of individuals with which you will ultimately interact throughout your journey. And, although most of these characters are memorable, their likability is another story. To the game’s credit, I did end up enjoying my time with a fair bit of the cast, particularly Lexi (I’ve always liked cool cyberpunk cops), and the ridiculous but totally tubular punk duo that was Chad (aka “Starfucker”) and Oliver. “A fair bit” doesn’t equate to “all”, however, and although I hardly expect a game to cater to my every whim when it comes to its cast of characters, I would also prefer for them to at least be likable — especially when we’re talking about allied characters. I couldn’t help but notice that 2064 seemed to struggle when it came to addressing more complex character traits such as with Jess, for example, who, rather than coming across as guarded to to her past, is presented to players in a manner so acerbic that it all but destroyed any chance for me caring about what she was dealing with. And she wasn’t the only one, either. Subtlety is a crucial tool when it comes to character development, but, sadly, it seemed to be one which was also missing from MidBoss’ developmental toolkit.
A (Neo) San Fran Safari
As far as actual gameplay goes, 2064 is pretty much what you would expect. It features typical “first-person” adventure game mechanics reminiscent of the era from which it draws the entirety of its inspiration and mimics them fairly well; especially when it comes to detail. You know how a lot of those old school games had an abundance of weird ways to interact with nearly everything that the player comes across (look, touch, etc.)? Well, 2064 has those too. Interacting with the people and objects around you is, of course, integral to the story progression. And in that sense, there’s nothing that really stands out. But where 2064 does shine, however, it with its detailing. There are a lot of things that the player can interact with, and most of them are there for that reason alone; interaction. Whether its supplemental information on the world of Neo San Francisco, a cleverly hidden Easter egg, facts about trees that you never knew you wanted to know, exploration in 2064 really pays off.
Conversation is yet another core focus of this game. Rather than having the game play out in the same way every time — as did most cyberpunk adventures — the player’s adventure with their robotic buddy can change in many ways depending upon their actions. A tried-and-true “you are the character!” protagonist, the player is free to interact with those whom they encounter how they wish. Want to be everyone’s friend? Great! Want to be a total jerk? Also great! 2064 really does try its hardest to give the player a sense of agency, and even goes so far as to making sure said agency has consequences further along in the game. So yes, you’re totally free to treat others how you see fit — just keep in mind that they’re also free to do the same.
2064 also has a handful of mini-games scattered about for players to work though. Mega Phobitor — an arcade game that plays like Snatcher’s shooting segments — aside, these mini-games take place as puzzles. And they’re really a lot of fun, especially the one at the end where you’re… never mind. I probably shouldn’t ruin that. Just take my word on it being really solid. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough of them. I understand not wanting to saturate your game with pointless mini-games, but the few that this game did have were really good. I don’t think that it would have hurt MidBoss to throw in one or two more.
The one thing that I think would have benefited 2064 more than anything (aside from an extra mini-game or two) is player-driven mystery solving. Snatcher was a game that had the player to a lot of the work themselves. Sure, at times it was a little obscure — okay, very obscure — but having to advance the story never fails to make the player feel good about themselves. Now, I wouldn’t want Snatcher-level mystery solving in a game like 2064. I don’t hate myself that much. But I would have liked the game to have held my hand a little less overall.
Let’s Get Integral, Integral
The Switch version of 2064, being the “definitive edition” and all, does come with a few additional goodies for players to enjoy. Most of these extra items are typical, well, “extras”, consisting of an art gallery, music player, detailed character bios and more. They’re nice, but probably not something that you’re going to spend more than a few minutes on (except for the music player, because this game’s got a pretty killer soundtrack). But art and music isn’t everything that makes up the “Integral” part of 2064: Read Only Memories Integral. It’s also got Punks! Cool, huh? What’s that? You don’t know what that is? Right, right, let me explain.
Without giving too much away (which is actually going to be surprisingly hard to do), Punks follows none other than 2064’s resident punks Chad and Oliver during the course of a certain event within the main 2064 story. And honestly, it’s pretty cool. I personally found these two to be some of the most likable characters in the game and enjoyed being able to see them in action a little bit more. Unfortunately, Punks is very short. 2064 describes Punks as a side episode of sorts. Technically it’s not an inaccurate description — that is what it is — but it’s so short that “side episode” doesn’t feel entirely honest. I suppose I can’t complain, though. It’s definitely better than nothing!
Frayed, but Functional
If I were in charge of a Cyberpunk adventure like 2064: Read Only Memories Integral, I probably would have done things a little bit differently. But, what do you know, I’m not, so I’ll just take what I can get. As I’ve already said, I don’t think that this game quite has what it takes to be the next “modern-day classic” in the cyberpunk adventure realm. But I also don’t think that it’s impossibly far away from being something along the lines of that, either. 2064 is, by all accounts, a cyberpunk adventure — and a good one at that — but it’s also a game with a definite message. Because of that, I would suggest looking into the game for yourself a little more before purchasing it. And for those of you who do and decide that you like what you see, then you’ve got nothing to lose and plenty to gain by picking this game up.
FINAL VERDICT: 3.5/5
Available on: Nintendo Switch (Reviewed) ; Publisher: MidBoss ; Developer: MidBoss ; Players: 1 ; Released: August 14, 2018 (Switch) ; ESRB: M for Mature ; MSRP: $20.64
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of 2064: Read Only Memories Integral given to Hey Poor Player by the publisher.