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Read Only Memories: NEURODIVER Review – pixelized psychic therapy for the soul

Read Only Memories: NEURODIVER, from Midboss & Chorus Worldwide, is an intoxicating mix of the gameplay mechanics from Ace Attorney with the world-building of Cyberpunk 2077. It’s a pixelized point-and-click indie title with charm like no other.

After having essentially spent over 10 minutes just staring at the main menu screen while listening to its 8-bit tunes, I got to enjoy a new, relaxing gaming experience that has been a welcome reprieve following the 110 hours I put into Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth. This is what I believe is this title’s biggest strength when standing amongst a sea of AAA titles that demand your attention. The ability to sit back and witness a vibrant 2D world come to life through its fun characters, cheeky writing, and simple mechanics. 

Read Only Memories: NEURODIVER is set in a “cyberpunk-ified” Neo-San Francisco, where genetic enhancements are the new lip fillers and heterosexual supremacy is never to be seen.

In-game screenshot

You play as protagonist Luna Vega de la Cruz, an Esper (a human with psychic abilities) with the power to “dive” into people’s memories courtesy of her squid-like slide-kick, the Neurodiver. Under the codename ES88, Luna operates as a Psychic Therapist for MINERVA, an organization dedicated to researching all things tech, and psychospiritual. The player gets to step into her shoes, going from client to client hunting for the Golden Butterfly, a rogue Esper using their powers to disrupt the memories of several key characters throughout the story. 

In-game screenshot

Compared to the other titles of recent memory, NEURODIVER is a very linear game. While some might see this as a negative, it’s pretty refreshing to kick off your shoes and let the story play itself out with the player as an observer.

Luna is a stellar protagonist who made my first experience with NEURODIVER a blast. She’s quirky, excitable, and is the embodiment of gay panic when witnessing her interact with her friend and bodyguard for the NEURODIVER, GATE. She’s relatable in how she is doubtful of her abilities and when jumping into the memories of others, she brings this curious energy that sinks me further into the narrative. It’s a pretty amazing thing when a game makes unpacking repressed trauma a light and enjoyable experience. 

In-game screenshot

One thing about the gameplay is that it’s very hands-off, meaning that you’ll be pressing A for most of the time. When heading into a mission, the main goal will typically have you trying to restore scrambled Memory Fragments that need repairing. For example, you’ll see a giant baby in the place a bartender in the game tutorial (and as you might correctly assume, that a baby doesn’t belong there). The player is then tasked with presenting other clues and items picked up throughout the memory to the fragment in order to repair it, much like presenting evidence in the Ace Attorney games. 

While there’s not much of a puzzle to solve, the real juice that I squeezed here was in the parallels between the dives and real life therapy sessions. Often, we repress key moments in memories to keep ourselves “safe” without even realizing it, so taking on Luna’s genuine desire to help characters restore clarity, made me feel more invested despite not really needing to use my own brain a whole bunch. Honestly, it’s a blessing sometimes. 

Between the visuals and the nostalgic tracks that scream Twinkle Town, sonic-the-hedgehog in the 90s, my experience with NEURODIVER was akin to being the passenger princess in a car cruising down Rainbow Road. It’s very steampunk approach to the way it smoothly represents the LGBTQ+ and Latino communities (to name a few) without any of the outdated, in-your-face tropes makes me wish that most games included this kind of diversity without making it cheap.

In-game screenshot

This game showed me that we may very well be in the revolution of the indies, where most AAA titles and developers spend too much time researching instead of listening to the voices of their respective communities. This is also why I don’t really have many negative things to say about my experience with the game. In the simplest way I can describe it, it’s a smooth easy ride with a fun aesthetic. While some might find the pacing a bit too fast, I enjoyed this kind of in-and-out experience after playing 100+ hour open world games with a million towers to activate and side quests that could keep you busy till 2064. 

It’s safe to say that my “dive” into Read Only Memories: NEURODIVER was nothing but assuring that indies are long overdue for their flowers.

Score: 4/5

Read Only Memories: NEURODIVER is available now on Steam, Nintendo Switch, PS5, and Xbox.

A copy of Read Only Memories: Neurodiver for Switch was provided to Gayming Magazine by PR.

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