"Remember Me" may not have crossed your mind.
A single-player spring game with a multiracial female lead, it's not exactly a marketing team's dream pitch. The protagonist's sex alone was enough to dissuade some publishers from backing the game, creative director Jean-Maxime Moris has said.
So the credit goes to Capcom for giving life to this fun, futuristic action title from Dontnod Entertainment. Clumsy cameras and dry platforming keep it from any kind of classic status, but a winning fusion of spellbinding world design, savory combat and fresh asides called "memory remixes" makes "Remember Me" a cult hit candidate that's well worth your time.
It's 2084 in Neo-Paris. You're Nilin, a mind-wiped prisoner of the Memorize corporation who's sprung out by Edge, leader of the Memorize-fighting Errorist faction to which Nilin once belonged. He guides her back into life as a memory hunter with the mission of bringing down Memorize, which has invented a cerebral implant that makes memory-sharing possible. As her life becomes familiar again and Nilin fights through ranks of Memorize security, dive-bombing robots and subhuman, memory-junkie Leapers, she learns the job's going to take as much mind as might.
The mental parts are those memory remixes. Each is a sequence of events you can fast-forward and rewind through with the analog stick, keeping your eye alert for fuzz that signifies an object you can modify. As you fidget with seat-belts and gun safeties, you trial-and-error your way toward new outcomes in the subjects' minds.
Dontnod manages to subvert your early guesses about which maneuvers will reroute the memories correctly. Instead, most wind up a plausible Rube-Goldberg twist of fate, random enough to challenge your imagination but not silly enough to insult your intelligence.
The only drawback of the remixes is the dearth of them. There's just four in 10 to 12 hours of "Remember Me." Being Nilin's key power — as well as the game's most advertised activity — that's not nearly present enough. Perhaps the scarcity makes remixing feel fresh throughout the game, or perhaps it satisfies players who'd prefer to stay inside their button-mashing comfort zones. But adding two to four remixes really wouldn't have hurt.
They could have replaced some of the platforming, which lies at the opposite end of Dontnod's innovation range. Most is mindless point-A-to-point-B movement curated by on-screen symbols marking off the next ledge, and cramped by cameras that can swing stubbornly out of position. The platforming gets fun with the introduction of obstacles, like instant-death drones whose patrol routes Nilin has to avoid, and rotating or electrified billboards she has to scurry across at the right time. But like the remixes, they're rare.
The only part of "Remember Me" mixed into the game in the correct proportions is combat, which takes cues from the "Arkham" series in fight and RPGs in formula. On the surface, Nilin's arsenal is a no-brainer to master. She has only two strikes you can string together into four combos of three to eight hits in length. And if that wasn't simple enough, an on-screen meter charts your progress through your hit chains.
What blows the process wide open strategically is the ability to choose color-coded strikes that regenerate health, recharge special moves and pack greater power. If you're especially fond of Nilin's specials, like a logic bomb that scatters crowds or a reality warp that de-cloaks half-invisible Leaper variants, you can fashion your combos accordingly. If you're bad at defense, you can build them for that, too. Unfortunately, your combos only save with checkpoints, so any work piecing together the perfect one-two for a particular battle will die with you.
Dodging is the most "Arkham" aspect of combat in "Remember Me," with red exclamation points flashing over enemies' heads as they attack Nilin (though I guess the choice of punctuation makes it a bit "Metal Gear Solid," too). Because she can only dodge, and not seamlessly counter, it's difficult to work defense into her combos, as they're disrupted by any movement mid-dodge. But that's a fair counterbalance to Nilin's otherwise faultless offense.
The game's combat also finds lasting appeal in Dontnod's constant delivery of new enemy arrangements. Pummeling one standard Memorize Enforcer and then another is easy, but as "Remember Me" subs in sniping robots, charging bruiser Leapers and static-shielded guards that you can't hit without hurting yourself, you'll plan your moves more carefully.
There's another incentive for playing and replaying "Remember Me," and it's Dontnod's wonderfully imagined 2084 Paris. Faded graffiti and foot-high garbage buildup festoon sewer levels, and slick monitors and neon signage coat the corridors of institutions like Memorize and the Bastille, where the corporation saps memories from Nilin and other prisoners. The game's color palette is also truly all over the place, to the point not a single one dominates.
The story of "Remember Me," however, is spotty. Superb voice acting from Kezia Burrows animates Nilin with a likable resilience, and on select occasion you'll be sucked into pondering just how the technology of memory-sharing really would reshape society. The rest of this complicated sci-fi saga and all its silly word coinage (Errorists, S-Pressens, Sensens, etc.) is, yes, fairly forgettable.