Read Only Memories: Neurodiver is a modern adventure steeped in retro anime style

Neurodiver's favorite anime is probably Bubblegum Crisis.


I never played 2064: Read Only Memories. Frankly, I know more about the controversy at developer MidBoss than the game itself, when CEO Matt Conn stepped down in 2018 after... A lot of stuff happened. Anyway, it’s 2024, Read Only Memories has a sequel, and there's no reason not to give it a chance. Neurodiver is a totally approachable entry point for what is now a series, and after spending a few hours with a new preview build, I’m eager to see where the story goes. From basking in cyberpunky, retro-anime aesthetic charm to its relatively straightforward adventure gameplay and other surprisingly appealing bells and whistles, I’m sold.

Here's what Neurodiving looks like in Neurodiver
Source: Chorus Worldwide

Part of Neurodiver’s immediate appeal is its premise. It doesn’t overcomplicate itself or wallow too much in lore and minutia, nor does it simply play an anime references greatest hits playlist. You play as ES88, an Esper who works for the MINERVA corporation using an experimental new technology. The titular Neurodiver is the world’s first synthetic Esper, a creature that helps ES88 dive into people’s memories and even repair damages. Turns out it’s a desperately needed technology, as criminal Espers have developed ways to attack people from within their minds. Your job as the player is to help ES88 investigate and solve mysteries, leading into a conflict with a criminal powerful enough to bury themselves entirely into memories.

A part of the introductory case in Neurodiver
Source: Chorus Worldwide

This is all accomplished through a point and click adventure-style interface that is boiled down to the essentials. Rather than a ScummVM-like UI that makes you choose your verb for interactions, you can simply just… click on things. Navigation is a simple matter of clicking on points of interest and making dialogue choices, and occasionally scrolling the screen left or right. It’s simple and leaves room for the storytelling to breathe. It does feel like “pixel hunting” can rear its ugly head at times. For example, during one sequence I looked away at the wrong moment and didn’t notice a specific animation, masking the one thing I needed to click on to progress until I finally spotted it after a round of fruitless backtracking. Hopefully that was a fluke!

An example of a damaged memory in Neurodiver
Source: Chorus Worldwide

The other major gameplay element is in reconstructing memories. When you find a damaged memory, often represented by a fuzzy image from elsewhere in a victim’s life, you use clues found along the way to piece things back together. It’s another element based on streamlining, making sure the clues you find are immediately useful for driving the story forward.

The big problem there is feedback. Unless I missed something, there isn’t really a good way to determine which clues are the ones you need to use, beyond intuition. It’s fine when you have two clues and two slots to fill, but towards the end of the demo I had enough clues for the number of spaces I needed for a repair, but two of the clues were for a memory I found later. So there was some guesswork involved, especially since I still had more clues than I needed by the time I came back. The context is only so clear, and I felt like I was just tossing clues in and hoping for the best. Some way to know if one of the clues I was using specifically was wrong would’ve been great and helped cut off the unneeded effort.

It's the Neurodiver! From Neurodiver!
Source: Chorus Worldwide

Otherwise, I had a great time with Neurodiver. The world itself is really cool, composed of bright colors and neat character designs. The voice acting is really good, reminiscent of a high quality anime dub. There are a lot of neat flourishes, such as commercial break-style intermissions that have different characters shouting “Neurodiver!” just like an old anime from the 90s. All the characters are expressive, but ES88’s over-animated dialogue portraits give her an additional helping of charisma that makes her such a fun protagonist. For such a simple, streamlined game of its genre, the attention to detail when it comes to selling the world and personalities of Neurodiver really goes above and beyond.

I only got to spend two or so hours with Read Only Memories: Neurodiver, and the fact I’m saying “only” is a good sign. I want to know what happens next! I want to meet more interesting characters, and see what kinds of conflicts are in store for ES88! I want to spend more time with her cool, android bodyguard lady! There’s so much going for this game, and not once did I feel confused or lost having not played the first game. Maybe they’re directly connected, maybe not; at least as far as the demo there was no way to tell one way or the other. That’s great (for me)! Hopefully this early momentum only keeps going when Neurodiver finally launches. Regardless, it makes a hell of a first impression.

Read Only Memories: Neurodiver is available on May 16, 2024 for the PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, and Nintendo Switch. A code for a PC demo build was provided by the publisher for this preview.

Contributing Editor

Lucas plays a lot of videogames. Sometimes he enjoys one. His favorites include Dragon Quest, SaGa, and Mystery Dungeon. He's far too rattled with ADHD to care about world-building lore but will get lost for days in essays about themes and characters. Holds a journalism degree, which makes conversations about Oxford Commas awkward to say the least. Not a trophy hunter but platinumed Sifu out of sheer spite and got 100 percent in Rondo of Blood because it rules. You can find him on Twitter @HokutoNoLucas being curmudgeonly about Square Enix discourse and occasionally saying positive things about Konami.

From The Chatty
Hello, Meet Lola