Preview: Read Only Memories: Neurodiver [2024]

5 Feb 2024

Back when I covered 2064: Read Only Memories: Integral on the Switch, it served as my initial introduction to the world of Neo San Francisco. Dripping with the cyberpunk aesthetic, its blend of murder mystery and robotic sapience themes made for a compelling point-and-click adventure experience.

I was hoping that there would be some more stories to tell in the Read Only Memories universe, and developer Midboss seemed to agree. Since 2064, former Neo-SF cop Lexi Rivers slotted in as protagonist in a graphic novel (simply titled Read Only Memories) between it and Neurodiver. I would recommend reading mostly for lore reasons, but it’s something that helps bridge the gap between these two games. 

Slated to release this spring, Read Only Memories: Neurodiver will be the latest adventure game in the franchise. However, instead of a former cop or a faceless protagonist who follows an android around, you’ll be in the shoes of a plucky young esper who’s eager to prove herself in the field. Published by Chorus Worldwide Games, Neurodiver will be available on Switch/PS5/Xbox Series X | S/PC (Epic Games Store/Steam). The latest PC build was played for this preview. 

Set after the events of 2064 and the aforementioned graphic novel, the game opens with ES88 (AKA Luna) and her partner GATE preparing for yet another workday at the massive complex known as MINERVA. It’s here where she starts a dive on one of her coworkers (for a forgotten password, of all things), and where the player gets situated with how this gameplay element is handled throughout. 

With her esper skills and plucky fangirl personality, she’s able to extract the information that said coworker needed. For anyone who indulged in the Pilot Memory, the gameplay concept is nothing new. However, this build isn’t set during that demo. Since that focused more on ES88’s first dive, it was nice to see more of her personality shine through here. Plus having her bounce off of the straight-laced GATE is good fun. 

Despite the relatively low-key beginning of the game, Neurodiver’s primary plot is centered around the rogue esper, Golden Butterfly. You do get glimpses of the flamboyant (and very gold) antagonist in the early parts of the game, but you’ll also interact with other established characters in the process. As we mentioned in our interview with Midboss, characters like Lexi and Turing would be making an appearance in some shape or form. 

With the story primarily focusing on ES88 and her tussles with Golden, her being a compelling protagonist is pretty important to me. Luna doesn’t come across as overly fangirl-ish or extremely obnoxious throughout gameplay. Sometimes her fangirl side ends up being a bit too silly, but the tongue-in-cheek approach to that takes some of that edge off. She’s an effective and likable esper, and her overall personality doesn’t take away from the plot. While some other minor characters might get a little obnoxious, Luna doesn’t.

What we do get here is something that pulls up to the same quality as 2064, and it’s pretty clear Midboss is still able to flex its storytelling chops. Even in small doses, the story of Neurodiver will be something I look forward to experiencing when players can finally dive into this game themselves.

Thankfully, the core gameplay is about what one would expect for a point-and-click adventure. In the process of Luna’s esper escapades, you’ll be using your sleuthing skills to accomplish plot-related goals in and out of dives. While the bulk of this sleuthing is wrapped up in uncovering clues in environments and sometimes in the minds of a subject, it’s usually a pretty straightforward affair. Point-and-clicks are known for being a bit on the obtuse and non-hand-holdy side, but there are enough hints to guide the player. There is enough space for the player to figure things out on their own as well. 

Most of the dives you’ll encounter will entail some level of evidence-gathering, and this will help when you encounter segments that require you to de-scramble a segment of memory that’s getting in the way of completing the dive. It devolves into dragging the right pieces of evidence that you find elsewhere. Depending on how acclimated are to feverishly inspecting the environment, this could be a bit frustrating.

Regardless, Neurodiver isn’t the kind of game that revels in requiring the player to be more detail-oriented than they usually are. Points where one may be stumped are pretty rare, but the general flow is pretty accessible. In some cases, games let the gameplay take a backseat in favor of the story. Much like 2064, the bulk of the gameplay adopts this approach in favor of moving the story forward. This is pretty par for the course for games in this genre, but that’s also part of the appeal for some fans.

Most of the things seen here have been done elsewhere, but it’s not something I see as a knock. Dives are a generally good time, the core gameplay elements consistent with the genre are well done, and the game does a pretty good job of maintaining a balance of guiding you forward without holding your hand too much. What’s here so far is promising, so I’m hoping that the final build will build on that promise.

Nothing drastic was done to the overall look and feel since the Pilot Memory, which did shift from the Commodore 64-esque style of presentation of 2064 to something more akin to something someone might encounter on a mid-90s PC instead. The reverence for the cyberpunk aesthetic is represented well here with the appropriate color palette and the various 80s styles wiggling their way through here. GATE’s shoulder pads alone scream 80s style alone, never mind ES88’s wardrobe and hairstyle.

Similar reverence was given to those early days of adventure games with the limited animation, though with a few modern touches thrown in. Dialogue in the game is appropriately animated, as are situations that call for a visual change in the environment (namely memory fragments in dives). It’s an effective mix of aesthetics, animation, and artistic direction. One could easily mistake it for being a game from the mid-90s with ease.

Like its predecessor, Neurodiver does feature a full voice cast. Many of my prior sentiments about characterization largely apply here, as everyone involved turns in a worthy performance. None of it comes off especially cheesy (unless it’s done intentionally), and stays in line with what fans have come to expect now. Music generally leans into the less painful aspects of the Genesis/Mega Drive sound chip, and the atmospheric soundtrack that’s here is pleasant to listen to.

Given that I liked the presentation of 2064, it wasn’t much of a stretch that would enjoy Neurodiver‘s as well. I’m a sucker for the art style and aesthetics of cyberpunk and its adjacent contemporaries, so this being a major component is something I would love to see in more games. Especially ones with this kind of execution, as it tickles that millennial childhood desire of being plopped in front of a detailed cyberpunk adventure game and wistfully wishing for that view of the future to come to pass.

The wait for Neurodiver has been pretty lengthy, but what I played through in this build is something I think fans should look forward to playing. You can tell that Midboss cares a lot about what they’re putting out here for fans, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the final product comes together.

Based on what I played here, there’s a lot to look forward to for fans of the franchise and the point-and-click genre. Good things may come to those who wait, but getting it right the first time is also something worth doing as well. It’s not often you see developers taking their time to get it right, but in this case, it makes sense to do so. Here’s hoping ES88’s adventure will live up to expectations later this year.

PC build and screenshots provided by Chorus Worldwide Games for preview purposes.