Don’t Forget Me review: this queer jazz-punk sci-fi will thoroughly test your detective skills
All the hallmarks of a great sci-fi story are present in Don’t Forget Me, a new “jazz-punk” game available now on Steam that tests your detective skills – and your moral compass.
It begins, typically enough, with an amnesiac hero. Fran wakes up in a bizarre clinic with no memory, which is strange when everyone in this dystopian future has been implanted with a memory chip.
Those chips, though, can be manipulated by copyists who can illegally duplicate memories to preserve them and leave a legacy. Good thing you woke up in a memory clinic then.
But what happens when the copied memories have dangerous consequences? What happens when people want to forget their memories as easily as a quick delete? And would a world without homophobia, racism and prejudice be worthwhile if we sacrificed free will?
These are the difficult moral questions tackled by Don’t Forget Me. It’s through memory manipulation that Fran and her new copyist pal, the queer Bernard, uncover a secret government plot to create a collective Hivemind, merging us all into one sole consciousness – to free us, or control us?
It’s like a reverse Matrix, with a heavy dose of Blade Runner. The game’s cyberpunk trappings are matched with moody pixel art and a cool electronic jazz score for a suitably neo noir atmosphere that’s as intoxicating as the cocktails in the nearby dive bar where our protagonists unwind.
The game’s most interesting feature, though, is its detective mechanics. Uncovering memories means diving into the minds of people arriving at the clinic, which plays out like a wordy minigame.
Memories are bubbles based on keywords and as Bernard describes each memory, you’ll need to type out the right word to advance to the next memory, slowly uncovering more of the story. The right keywords aren’t always obvious so you need to pay attention to the story. If you’re a streamer and you’re struggling, the game also includes a Twitch mode to allow viewers to vote in assistance.
There’s just something incredibly tactile about typing as a detective. It makes you feel like a true cyber sleuth, empathising with clients as much as questioning their motives.
Unfortunately, the game doesn’t make enough use of this gameplay. It’s film length, with an emphasis on story over gameplay. And while it hurtles towards its wonderfully ambiguous conclusion, you’ll spend more time reading through dialogue than engaging with its mechanics.
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We also don’t learn enough about Fran and why she lost her memory. Though the writing has some wonderfully human moments, the characterisation is a little robotic.
Still, like any good sci-fi story, the questions of Don’t Forget Me linger after the credits roll. What is the meaning of memory? And should humans really be playing God?
Don’t Forget Me is available now on Steam.
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