Preview: Read Only Memories: Neurodiver

3 Mar 2021

If someone offered you the chance to change your memories, would you take it? Would you allow another person into your mind to clear up hazy memories, or perhaps bury ones you’d rather forget?

What if it came with the risk of changing your personality or your sense of self completely?

This seems to be the questions developer MidBoss is tackling in the follow-up to their 2015 title Read Only Memories. In this sequel, subtitled Neurodiver, players find themselves in the shoes of ES88, an “esper” learning how to use the eponymous Neurodiver to see and alter others’ memories.

We had the opportunity to try out a prototype build of Neurodiver, offering a short glimpse into the world of the game currently in development. And by short, we mean short; the snippet of gameplay was perhaps fifteen minutes in length. In those quick moments, though, we were given a simple introduction to the premise of this upcoming title.

As mentioned, Neurodiver focuses on ES88, an esper with the power to see people’s thoughts. She’s currently studying for an exam on the usage of the Neurodiver, a man-made living being that allows one to dive into another’s memories and alter them.

It isn’t long before she gets to put the creature/device to use, as a friend introduces her to a man named Crow. Crow has some hazy and confused memories pertaining to an information-sales job he took nearly a decade ago that seeming destroyed his friendship with numerous people. He has come to ES88 to lift the fog and remember exactly what happened that day.

Neurodiver retains the point-and-click adventure style of the original game. In figuring out Crow’s hidden memories, the player guides ES88 in first person by clicking on various people and objects to further the story and collect items. This goes smoothly at first, talking to patrons in a bar and poking around at various objects…until a big glitchy baby appears.

In what appears to be a major mechanic for the game, said baby is a glitch in Crow’s memory. ES88 has to use objects in her inventory to resolve this glitch to piece together the memory and continue the plot. Figuring out what has to be done here (as well as another time during this demo) is hardly difficult, although I can see it being more challenging and puzzle-like in the full release.

The demo ends with setting up a possible antagonist and core mystery for the game, a quick concluding conversation between ES88 and Crow, and a cut to black. Quick, simple…and somewhat interesting overall.

It wasn’t until I viewed the game’s initial trailer after completing the demo that I really understood the themes Neurodiver is going for. Questioning the use of technology, and if ones thoughts and memories can truly be trustworthy in a world where others can read and alter them. Themes that aren’t as stranger to cyberpunk or sci-fi in general, but are always intriguing to me personally.

On the other hand, with there already being a large difference in design between the trailer and this demo, it’s hard to say if the plot introduced there will be present in the final release.

Admittedly, I did go into this demo completely blind – I have not played the original Read Only Memories, although I have played through what’s often seen as its sister game, VA-11 Hall-A. While I can’t comment on how this demo compares to the original, what I can say is what’s presented here is a solid proof of concept.

Between the plot from the game’s trailer and the gameplay teased in this build, I can say that Neurodiver is now on my radar. I’m looking forward to seeing how development progresses as this sequel to a fan favorite nears its release.

Read Only Memories: Neurodiver is planned for release on PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Mac in 2021.

Preview copy provided by MidBoss. Screenshots taken by writer.