Read Only Memories: Neurodiver Review

Read Only Memory: Neurodiver header artwork

2064: Read Only Memories was a game that never fully piqued my interest. I love the idea of a sci-fi anime-esque adventure, but the aesthetic of that game never seemed as tightly dialled in as I would have wanted it to be. It’s sequel, though, has looked exactly like the game I’ve been waiting for. I was hooked from the first reveal trailer for Read Only Memories: Neurodiver, mouth nearly watering at the technicolor characters and gorgeously rendered future streets. Now, after ages of delays, I’ve finally gotten to sit down and play the game, and I just desperately wish there was more of it.

Read Only Memories: Neurodiver drops you into Neo-San Francisco in the year 2070, controlling a mind-reading psychic detective named ES-88 – AKA Luna Cruz de la Vega. While some sci-fi worlds are dense and dreary and soaked in neon, Neo-San Francisco and the people who inhabit it are the exact opposite. There’s a cheery veneer and uncompromising comfort to every inch of this world that reminded me of the bright and bubbly world of the Ace Attorney series. Every pixel is spent rendering a world you almost wish you could live in, and every background detail features an unexpected cameo or out-of-pocket gag waiting to reveal itself. While most of Read Only Memories: Neurodiver is a linear visual novel with bits of pointing-and-clicking bolted on, there’s enough life to the world that I never felt trapped or limited by this format.

As ES-88, you work at a technology information company called Minerva as one of their elite Espers – a psyche-exploring agent who can access, rewire, and recover a client’s memories with the assistance of a synthetic life-form called the Neurodiver. Mind crimes and mental palaces and non-linear memory-driven storytelling are some of my favorite tropes in sci-fi media, so this immediately got me hooked on the premise.

Read Only Memory: Neurodiver point & click investigation

Then, when the Ace Attorney similarities hit me, I was expecting and hoping for this game to be just as beefy as one of those titles, providing me with a bunch of different layered memory-hunting cases to sink my teeth into. Unfortunately, Read Only Memories: Neurodiver only focuses on one major memory-thief – the Golden Butterfly – and this singular adventure can be completed in just a few hours. There are so many corners of Neo-San Francisco left unexplored and so many characters barely touched that by the time I was really getting invested in ES-88s journey it was already wrapping up.

There’s so much charm to Read Only Memories: Neurodiver, and it’s all so natural and raw. You can tell that the creators of this game put every ounce of themselves and their nerdy hobbies into it, and that unabashed love for media is infectious. One character might have an unexpected obsession with magical girl manga, or a patron in the back of a bar might actually be a famous Japanese game developer. Sometimes, you’re hit with a classic anime commercial-stinger while a random character shouts the name of the game. It’s all cheesy and charming in a perfectly balanced way.

Read Only Memory: Neurodiver dialogue

That said, when it comes to the voice acting, I think it’s just downright cheesy. Characters have incredibly well-fitting actors cast to play them, but the voice direction is distractingly inconsistent – not just missing the tone of the writing, but also the tone of the other actors in the same scene. I actually spent most of the game with voice-acting muted, feeling far more satisfied with the dialogue-box blips accompanying each line than I was with the voice acting. While it didn’t land for me, you could argue the clunky voice acting is part of Read Only Memories: Neurodiver’s charm.

Summary
Read Only Memories: Neurodiver is a game that wears it's influences on it's sleeve, from corny 90s anime dubs to slick sci-fi and even Mexican culture. It's all worn and shown off so proudly that the resulting mix is loud, proud, and unforgettable. I just wish that it was so much longer, because I already miss my time in Neo-San Francisco.
Good
  • Gorgeous, inventive art and environments
  • A loveable and diverse cast of characters
  • Gameplay and storytelling flow seamlessly
Bad
  • Far too short to truly explore the setting
  • Grating, mismatched voice acting direction
8
Written by
I'm a writer, voice actor, and 3D artist living la vida loca in New York City. I'm into a pretty wide variety of games, and shows, and films, and music, and comics and anime. Anime and video games are my biggest vice, though, so feel free to talk to me about those. Bury me with my money.