Our industry is a diverse and creative space, one where games large and small can co-exist and find an audience. The further we explore what it means to be a video game, the more expressive they become, exploring emotions instead of adventure with characters that are as much fragile as they may be heroic. A Memoir Blue, the debut title from Cloisters Interactive, takes us on a journey that exemplifies why video games are of such vital importance to modern storytelling, allowing us to interact with a vivid and wonderfully produced piece that no other medium could allow.
This short and at times sad tale explores the life of Miriam, a young and talented athlete who, upon returning home with another success under her belt, finds herself alone in her apartment. She soon drifts off to sleep, revealing a dreamscape journey of memories good and bad of her relationship with her mother. With zero dialogue to accompany, Miriam’s dreamscape combines both hand-drawn 2D and modern 3D animation to differentiate her current state with that of her younger self.
Miriam’s sadness is evident from the very first moment
Each chapter of the story contains simple interactive elements that allow the player to reveal and remind Miriam of her past. None of them are difficult or taxing, though some hold clever secrets for achievement hunters, and each helps to push the story forward as it plays out. Some are more revealing and interesting than others, enforcing the themes of loss, sadness and fear, while others playfully recall happier times. Without dialogue to push the story forward, every visual plays an important role in explaining these key moments and the emotional weight it places upon Miriam and her mother, with Miriam watching on as her younger self is animated delightfully through it all.
It can be difficult to separate storytelling with the need to be interactive – that’s the reality of being classified a video game – and in that respect A Memoir Blue does have the issue of simplicity. Its focus is clearly telling the tale and using the emotional weight of it as its key, and the vast majority of interactions offer no difficult puzzles to solve or any action per se. They play the role they need to in order to maintain the flow of the narrative without forcing the player into complexity or slowing things down, and in that context it does exactly what it needs to.
Dreaming a little underwater dream
Running on a PS5, A Memoir Blue does little to take advantage of the console’s abilities (its dual sense controller haptics for example), which might be considered a missed opportunity. There are portions of the game that would have been elevated by their presence, though that’s certainly not selling what’s here short. It’s a similar story to its short and simple premise, in many ways, that the concept was driven by a need for simplicity and a lack of gimmicks that could take away from the poem itself. It’s hard to argue against that decision.
Miriam’s tale is well told and focused, so despite the lack of gameplay features it ultimately matters little for those who find exactly what they need from her story, and find it I did. Cloisters Interactive have crafted a wonderful tale, a daughter’s difficult journey and her mother’s struggle to protect her. The dreamscapes Miriam creates are surrounded by water, emphasising her fascination with the deep and her sporting prowess in the pool, and that lends a wonderful sense of scope to each chapter. Complemented by a beautiful score, A Memoir Blue may be short but it’s a journey that’s well worth taking.
Not everyone will take away the same reactions or emotions once the credits begin to roll, and that’s okay. For those who seek something unique, a poem lovingly told visually, then A Memoir Blue should be on your list. For others, it’s a chance to experience the other side of video games, one that continues to grow and find a place amongst the tentpole hits and indie darlings. Not everything has to be high octane or dialogue driven, it can simply be a tale of memories and the rediscovery of what you need to carry on. A Memoir Blue is a fine example of one such tale and I enjoyed my time with it, brief as it may have been.
The combination of different art styles is wonderful
I had tears in my eyes as A Memoir Blue came to a close. Though it may be short, there are moments in the final few chapters that are heart wrenching, yet by the end there’s a feeling of pure happiness and relief. I’m sure many who explore its meaning and emotional journey may feel that same connection and perhaps a few tears of their own, but as someone going through hard times and with a deep and loving connection to my own mother, this hit me hard. That’s a good thing, that means the developer’s vision connected, and I’m so grateful for having played it.
Reviewed on PS5 // Review code supplied by publisher
- Cloisters Interactive
- Annapurna Interactive
- PS5 / PS4 / Xbox Series X|S / Xbox One / Switch / PC
- March 24, 2022