Annapurna Interactive has rapidly become the place to go for thought-provoking, atypical video gaming experiences. Out of the publisher's growing slate of narrative-based games, Cloisters Interactive's A Memoir Blue looked to stand out as something unique, telling a serene and touching tale. The game has finally arrived after almost a decade of making the rounds across indie gaming festivals and the final product is a wonderful, if all-too-brief, tale of reflection.
Dreaming of the past
A Memoir Blue's story follows a former Olympic swimmer named Miriam. When players meet her, she's almost in a malaise, sitting quietly in her apartment on a rainy night. She drifts off into a dream state, taking the player along for the ride across a series of flashbacks to her childhood and beyond. While much of the game is designed with a traditional 3D rendering, the flashbacks utilize a more hand-drawn style of animation. Seeing the two styles side-by-side adds greatly to the story and gives the narrative a greater melancholic atmosphere.
The main purpose of the story is to follow these flashbacks as they ultimately lead Miriam to a major crossroads. Players advance the story by completing puzzles and these are often relaxing, simple exercises. These point-and-click puzzles often involve some light button presses, moving objects to the side, or flipping switches. It isn't so much meant to challenge as it is to soak in the game's atmosphere, which is where the light orchestral soundtrack helps greatly.
While I don't want to spoil the major intricacies of A Memoir Blue's story, I do want to laud the consistent use of the story's water motif. It not only plays into Miriam's background as a swimmer, but it poetically plays into elements of her childhood and also incorporates a number of water-related metaphors. Think along the lines of drowning in despair or cleansing one's self of anxiety and grief.
My biggest criticism for A Memoir Blue is that the experience is way too short. Many will complete the whole story in under 90 minutes and there's nothing left once it's over. I'm not advocating for unnecessary padding, but after getting attached to Miriam's life story, I do feel like there could have been a few more chapters. The ocean setting and the water motif lends itself to so many storytelling possibilities that it could have led to an even greater experience. As it is, A Memoir Blue is still a breathtaking experience, but one that lasts about as long as it takes to swim a few laps in the pool.
There are several elements of A Memoir Blue that I feel are worth applauding. The mixture of traditional rendering with hand-drawn animation was implemented beautifully. The soundtrack complements the story's poetic nature tremendously and makes this the perfect kind of experience to help people wind down after a stressful period. The simplicity of its puzzle design may prove too rudimentary for some, but ideal for an audience that may not necessarily play traditional games. They're more for audiences looking for the kind of story experience that can't be told through other mediums.
A Memoir Blue is over before you know it, so it doesn't quite earn a gold medal. However, for a debut effort, this is a solid outing for Cloisters Interactive, one worth dipping your toes in.
This review is based on a Nintendo Switch digital code provided by the publisher. A Memoir Blue is available now on PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch for $7.99 USD. The game is rated E.
A Memoir Blue
- Beautiful blend of art styles
- Touching narrative
- Soothing soundtrack
- A short story that could have offered more
- Puzzles feel overly simplistic at times