Whenever I play an adventure game, I’m always on the lookout for what I call the ‘Rubber Duck’ puzzle. For those who haven’t played The Longest Journey, the Rubber Duck puzzle features an amazingly stupid solution that is so abstract and obtuse that it defies logical thought. The presence of a Rubber Duck makes me weary, as it indicates that the developers have stopped trying to make a game that has a natural flow to it and instead place 10 metre high walls in front of the player at every turn. Its absence has no major effect on the game by itself, yet it can greatly enhance the whole package if done properly.
Memoria has golems that awake with magic spells to break down doors, magical rituals that need to be performed, and plenty of places to venture to and explore. It has an interesting cast, a beautiful world, and more than a few minor annoyances. But it does not have a Rubber Duck, and for that I am very grateful.
A sequel to Daedalic Entertainment's Chains of Satinav, Memoria features the same protagonist, Geron, as he searches for a way to change his fairy companion back from a raven into her original form. You need not fear if you have never played the original. I have never played Chains of Satinav, yet I was still able to comprehend the characters and their past as the game progressed without difficulty.
Delve into the past
In order to discover the spell that could turn his companion back, Geron must first solve a riddle by delving into tales and books to learn the story of Princess Sadja, who lived over 450 years in the past. Sadja is trying to reach a battle site where the forces of good and evil will clash, yet her story was lost in time until Geron rediscovers it in the present.
Throughout Memoria you will alternate between Geron and Sadja as you progress through the game. Whereas Gerons’ story is more intimate and close to home, Sadja’s tale is an epic quest that delves through ruins and mountains in order to reach her goal. The juxtaposition between the two works well, as the pace and tone changes with each change of perspective, keeping Memoria from becoming too complacent with what it presents. That’s not to say that each one is completely different from the other; both Geron and Sadja offer a healthy dose of humour to lighten things up, and the twists and turns in each tale are rather riveting.
Not to mention that each protagonist is well written. Both Geron and Sadja have flaws and quirks, and each feels like they exist within the world itself. Personally, I prefer Sadja, if only because she actually has the drive and will that are needed to accomplish her objective. Geron feels more like he is perpetually tired and confused all the time, and is unsure about what he should be doing. This is not the result of the writing, but the voice acting instead, which is hit and miss all around. While all of the characters, including the supporting cast, are engaging to talk to, I often didn't because some of the voice actors sounded like they had no idea what the proper tone for a scene was. That, or they adopted the blandest voice they possibly could.
Puzzles and Magic
The puzzles are not bland though. They feature a host of challenges that actually make sense given their context. There is only a small inventory to manage at any given time, and combining the items is not a hassle because the combinations are perfectly logical. As a result, the focus is more on experimenting with the environment and creating, instead of staring at the screen and racking your brain in frustration. And while the puzzles themselves are not certifiably crazy, they do provide quite the challenge for players themselves. If need be, you may want to grab a pen and paper for some of the puzzles, as they do require some work at times.
What I found most interesting with Memoria in solving puzzles is the magic system, where you obtain a variety of spells for getting through different areas and challenges. For example, Geron`s starting spell is a make/unmake magic that can either destroy or repair any object you come across. A simple use of the spell would be to destroy a barrel to obtain the item within, and then place a second item into the barrel's remains in order to remake the barrel with the new item trapped inside. There are quite a few spells that are found within the games chapters, and they often have inventive uses that require some thought before they can be put to use.
You can certainly do worse
And even if you happen to end up staring at the screen from time to time, it will not be in vain. Backgrounds are all lushly drawn, and feel as if they came right out of a fantasy magazine. Every location looks beautiful and real, even if that location is a dusty shanty town with no soul living inside. While the art style is great, the character models are not. Close ups on the characters faces feel awkward, not the least because of the poor lip syncing and limited facial expressions. The character art style sometimes looks out of place from the background, and I couldn’t help but feel uneasy.
Memoria is a very well designed adventure game that is neither too challenging nor too easy, and features a surprisingly well crafted story to supplement its many puzzles. And despite some technical hiccups, it manages to remain a memorable experience to the very end. If you want to enjoy a good old fashioned fantasy adventure, you could certainly do worse than Memoria.
Well designed puzzles, Interesting characters, great art style
Hit and miss voice acting, Character model issues, minor technical hiccups