App Reviewed on: iPad Pro
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The steady flow of reflective and slow adventure games has definitely reached a saturation point where the mere idea of one coming out is no longer notable or celebration-worthy. In fact, there are a lot of games in this category that actually just seem like derivative attempts to ride the coattails of pioneering titles like Dear Esther. In any case, A Memoir Blue is definitely one of these kinds of games, and it manages to distinguish itself through its unique blend of art styles, focus on light puzzle-solving, and simple-yet-powerful storytelling.
A Memoir Blue is a sort of surreal adventure where you dive into the memories of a nameless woman who seems to have found success as a swimmer. Through this wordless story, you'll find this woman literally swimming through an ocean filled with objects and images from her past, and through poking and prodding at them in the right ways you can trigger small cutscenes that start piecing together a coherent story.
You never have direct control over the protagonist, but rather they'll stop in a scene you're supposed to interact with or the camera will automatically zoom up to the things the game wants you to focus on. This takes makes it less like a "walking simulator" like the games it seems inspired by but also has the added benefit of eliminating any pathfinding issues or guesswork about how to proceed through the experience.
Old and new
It takes a little bit of time to really understand where A Memoir Blue is trying to go with its story, but once you put it together it's very well-worn territory. I don't want to get into spoilers as discovering what is going on is part of what makes the game enjoyable, but I will say that it has some genuinely moving moments despite the somewhat tropey narrative.
Story beats in A Memoir Blue land primarily because of the game's style, which mixes 3D and 2D animation in ways that are both novel but also intentional for reinforcing aspects of the story. It's also worth noting that A Memoir Blue has a beautiful soundtrack that helps make its emotional highs peak a little higher than they might otherwise.
A simple puzzle
A Memoir Blue punctuates its story moments with sections of puzzle-solving that usually involve manipulating and object to get it into a desired state before moving forward. Examples of this are putting books onto a shelf, turning on lights, opening doors, etc. None of it is particularly complicated, but they are satisfying actions to perform and give you some attachment to the scene they inevitably end up being used for.
What I appreciate about this approach is it allows A Memoir Blue to move very swiftly through its story without hanging you up on obtuse challenges. This isn't a terribly long game, but it wouldn't be made more enjoyable if it gave you more significant obstacles to overcome.
The bottom line
It took a moment for A Memoir Blue to click with me, as it looks and feels quite a bit like every other emotive adventure at first. Slowly but surely though, the game reveals itself to be a novel and stylish take on an unsurprising but well-executed story.