Memoranda is a point-and-click adventure game inspired by the short stories of Haruki Murakami. When I completed the game, I looked up the Japanese writer and read a few flash fiction pieces. Maybe I read the wrong stories, but by reading his work, I still didn’t understand Memoranda at all, which is part of the reason the game fell short for me.
I have a hard time describing the story of this game because the information doesn’t make sense. You play as Ms. Mizuki, who has seemingly forgotten her first name. Her name tag is locked inside a safe in her apartment, though she can’t remember the code. She remembers everything else, though. She needs a map to get around town, but she remembers the people who live in her apartment and the town and has memories of her deceased parents.
Yet, there are plenty of characters around that are human, or maybe they’re not—I’m still not sure. There’s an opera-singing cat that might have been a human once, a human who used to be a fish, and an elephant hiding in a man’s cottage who used to be in the circus. But he might have also been human at one point too.
Many things happen in this game that don’t make sense. It doesn’t help that there were about three different plots, none of which had definite endings.
Ms. Mizuki has insomnia because a sailor hides under her bed and won’t let her sleep. Is he a hallucination? It’s hard to say. But once we get rid of him, that’s that, and nothing is mentioned again. There’s no explanation as to who he was or why he was hovering around our character. She also wants to find the missing elephant and help him. But once we find him, he’s forgotten, and we move onto her next worry—her missing name.
Even then, we find the name in the end, but it’s not revealed. Ms. Mizuki is pretty satisfied, and that’s all well and good for her, but I did all the work and got nothing out of it. For a mysterious puzzle game, I want to be satisfied and have “ah-ha!” moments. Instead, all I felt was relief when the credits started rolling.
If an anti-climactic story isn’t bad enough, the gameplay isn’t anything to cheer about either. I enjoy point-and-click games. I think the genre is clever by exploring the areas and using tools and items we find around us to make it from one place to the next. The problem with Memoranda’s execution was that nothing made sense.
For a short game, you’re going to spend hours figuring things out. For example, you need to capture the opera-singing cat’s voice. When he starts singing, he begins to cough. So, you give him some orange juice that you picked up from your apartment. He sings again, but the voice rises into the air. How do you capture it if it disappears? Well, you mix the orange juice with some gas that you picked up somewhere else and have him drink that, causing the voice to fall to the ground so you can pick it up. The actual puzzles weren’t too bad, but there were only about five or so throughout the game.
Luckily, the game isn’t too linear. If you’re in one area, examine everything you can. Otherwise, there will be much back and forth, and Ms. Mizuki is a slow walker. I was bored for the majority of the game. I wasn’t engaged in the story or the characters, and I was annoyed that I couldn’t get any results that I worked so hard for as nothing was explained.
The game’s only saving grace is that it’s absolutely beautiful. The hand-drawn art style is amazing, and the various areas and backgrounds are a sight to see. Also, the music and sound effects were clear and lively as well. The design and sound teams on this one did an excellent job. The game is worth checking out for that alone.
In terms of solving puzzles and diving deep into the story, the fun won’t last long.
Review: Memoranda (Nintendo Switch)
Memoranda is a stunning game with beautiful graphics and amazing music, only to fall short with lackluster gameplay and an incomplete story.