Read Only Memories | (Review)

Jan 18, 2016

Read Only Memories or R.O.M is a cyberpunk adventure game with a neon pixel art aesthetic set in Neo-San Francisco, 2064 AD. You play as a struggling journalist who finds themselves in the middle of an adventure that makes a good use of cyberpunk tropes while delivering a strong and enriching narrative.

During my time with R.O.M I met a wide and varied cast of characters all with quirks and motives that made each stand apart delivering an interesting window into what it’s like to live in the latter half of the 21st century for humans and their mechanical helpers, the ROMs.

LEON the narrative

The narrative paints a picture of a future those not new to the cyberpunk genre will find familiar. Privatisation of public services including law enforcement, the few rising above the many through money, espionage and corruption are prevalent. But R.O.M also had some optimistic vibes, people have no difficulty with people having preferred pronouns and any social stigma over sexuality and your choice of partner seems to be have completely dropped by society as a whole.

During gameplay you’ll often find yourself investigating and questioning individuals with dialogue options giving you varied responses and different outcomes to the situations you find yourself in. When not talking to other characters, the game would throw me a little puzzle or some more active gameplay but these sections are light providing a little action or time to think when it is needed in the story.

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Like adventure games that have come before it R.O.M also provides plenty of opportunity to try different items for interactions with the people and environment around you. This often provided extra humour and texture to the world with some of the best interactions being the use of headphones to listen to different objects and the amount of writing dedicated to the spoiled milk item.

The way the plot changes based on your success throughout the adventure provides some interesting dynamics to the plot, I screwed up on one of the gameplay sections around the halfway point and it meant that the way I met two characters was changed completely. These moments seemed to be peppered throughout the game which has me ready for another play through so I can see what other things can change.

Your relationships with the characters in the game often has an effect on your options during your investigations and how a character feels towards you seemed to change how easily certain events could be handled.

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Another reason to replay the game would be too listen to its fantastic retro inspired sound track, the game really sells its cyberpunk setting through its numerous sound tracks with plenty of upbeat tunes to offset the lower slower tracks necessary to give cyberpunk that despair it embraces so well.

The pixel art is detailed, making good use of its neon and cement color pallet to breathe life into its setting, with many of the characters you interact with having beautifully drawn portraits for their cutscenes.

With sound, visuals, and narrative, R.O.M really lives up to its retro adventure game predecessors. It uses common tropes many are familiar with to create an enriching yet accessible world, with many lines of dialogue and descriptions that are fun and humorous as often as they are thoughtful making up for being light on action.

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