I’m an emo and Annapurna Interactive games are extremely my jam. Like, “Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge” levels of my jam.
A Memoir Blue keeps the publisher’s hot streak going and the moment it was described as an “interactive poem,” there was no way I was going to miss out on trying this. You see, because early 2022 has been packed to the gills with massive games like Elden Ring, Horizon Forbidden West and Gran Turismo 7, these short indie titles that go hard on style and atmosphere are welcome breaks.
Does A Memoir Blue nail the dive like Twelve Minutes and The Artful Escape? Does it go for gold and rank highly amongst the best PC Game Pass games? Or is it a belly flop? Now that I’ve got two terrible swimming puns out of the way, I’ll try my best to restrain myself going forward (you’ll understand why in a few seconds).
Under the sea
A Memoir Blue’s story is heartfelt, touching and told in such a unique manner without a single piece of dialogue.
If you’d rather go in completely blind, skip this section. However, I won’t spoil any specific plot points, but rather just hint towards general themes and the premise that you may already know from the game’s description.
This is a story about Miriam — a medal-winning diving and swimming superstar (hence the puns) who literally dives into an introspective dream about her relationship with her mother through her childhood and adolescence.
You navigate through key moments of her life, which are presented with a sharp contrast between the way you, as a child, felt and what your mother was going through in the stark reality of the situation.
As you progress, this dynamic is tested in real, relatable ways, such as a mother only wanting the best for you being interpreted as overwhelming pressure, or how one’s focus on a passion is sometimes a distraction from a burden of trepidation.
This dream world is incredibly well-realized to tell you this story without a lick of a dialogue, with the water making for strong-yet-subtle symbolism throughout. At some points it’s a means of positive progression, whereas in others you are literally swimming through your own pain to a point where, to paraphrase one of my favorite poets Stevie Smith, you’re not waving but drowning.
Driving all of this is a calming, meditative soundtrack and two fantastic animation styles: the 3D world in which your character explores and the 2D cartoon animation that forms her memories. Both are not just artistically inspired and dripping with atmosphere in every scene, but they are intrinsic to the storytelling too by seamlessly showing you this growing dichotomy between mother and daughter in a unique manner.
All of this leads to a gorgeous, heartwarming, bittersweet conclusion that you can’t help but smile at and shed a little tear or two. This is a very human story that sticks with you. Cloisters Interactive (and, as I found out, the Creative Director Shelley Chen who based this story on her own personal experience) has created an emotionally charged experience that will leave its mark.
Not going so swimmingly
At the core of it, A Memoir Blue is a super linear path through a series of interactive elements and puzzles that you complete to move onto the next nugget of story. There is no navigation to move Miriam, which makes this more of a point and click adventure in nature.
While I’m perfectly okay with the linearity and gameplay style of it (this is a deep story, after all), I do want to talk about these interaction parts. Much like The Artful Escape, they’re sometimes just too damn easy.
It’s hard to describe without delving into some spoiler-ish details, and I get this isn’t supposed to be a game per se, as Cloisters calls this an “interactive poem, but a little bit of challenge to certain puzzles would have kept me gripped in these moments between the story beats. Instead, towards the end, these can start to feel more like annoying obstacles in your way rather than interesting moments.
Luckily, it didn’t pull me out of my enjoyment of the game and its plot, but there is a definite focus on style and story over substance here, which you should factor into your purchase decision and ask how important gameplay is to you.
A Memoir Blue’s 45 minutes are an enticing blend of small point-and-click puzzles and an animated short. If this is what an “interactive poem” is, then sign me up for many more verses.
Yes, this is not going to be for everyone. The interactive parts are super limited, the puzzling elements are not very puzzling and I did experience a couple crashes. But none of this takes away from the personal story, the visual style and the immersive experience as a whole.
If you are an emo with an Xbox Game Pass account like me, this brief break from the normal rigmarole of video games is like listening to “I will follow you into the dark” by Death Cab for Cutie for the first time.
Be prepared for a roller coaster of feelings.