One of the best parts about doing months like these is that we get to play games we might not have even heard of. While both me and Casper are very much into gaming, there are tons and tons of titles out there, that makes it hard to play or even know about some, despite how “important” the media makes them out to be. Path to Mnemosyne got a ton of recognition from events and other media like Indigo, A.MAZE, Momocon, and more. I have never seen this game before, but when I looked it up, I was not intrigued by what I saw. It seemed like a simple puzzle-game and not much more than that, but there is a difference between playing and watching something, hence the interactive media. I am at least interested to see what I have been missing, so let’s dive into the mind of a young lass.
Subtle like a broken-hammer
I honestly am not entirely sure on what is going on, but from what I can tell, we are entering the mind of a young girl who seems to be traumatized. As you walk deeper into her subconsciousness, someone (most likely her psychologist), is trying to make her remember terrible memories and confront her deepest fears from the outside. That is at least what I get from this, but the story and flashbacks you get as the young girl never amounts to something clear. It leaves itself too vague to be interesting with what might be, but also hammers in that this is in her subconsciousness and she has to remember with imagery that is not tied in with her fear and just there for the shock-value or scares.
Because how sloppy the subtlety and clear symbolism is, I honestly stopped caring. It is almost as if they wanted to be artsy, but had no idea on how to be so or even what message to tell. The story themes around memory, sure, and is even well implemented in the gameplay, but it does not amount to anything with an ending that gives you a sign of being reborn because you conquered your phobias. There could have been something of a character-study here, but the story is forced and unfinished.
Story Score: 2/10
Mnemosyne is a linear puzzle-game where our protagonist can only jump over one tile forward or backward, and move in four directions. That is it, but the jumping is only used for button-stomping puzzles, so it is never a focus. In fact, the puzzles are themed around the concept of memory as mentioned above, but it can be incredibly vague with this at the same time. It starts out very simple, where you are directly told what buttons to push, and some others that have buttons affecting other buttons, but they are blatant on how to solve, they almost don’t feel like puzzles. The reason for why you do them is so you can regain memories in the form of colored flames, and use them to open the door to next chapter.
These doors require a one-screen puzzle to be solved and they are also simple, with some being about shifting perspective in order for orbs to connect, or turn tiles to make them connect. These could reflect on the concept of character-study, but they are very easy and short-lived, making what are fun, easy puzzles, forgotten quickly. That is except for two puzzles with one button-pushing puzzle that can be hard to solve, and one rhythm-game that is incredibly easy and is out of place since it is not a puzzle. The game has an incredibly uneven difficulty, with most puzzles being simple or outright told how to solve, with about 2 or 3 puzzles being hard and frustrating due to poor difficulty-curves and how long they can last.
Sadly, this is not the worst part and could have been a minor inconvenience due to the puzzles at least having clever and fun concepts, if nothing progressive. The worst part is that for the last 20 minutes of the game, you are constantly in confusing mazes and with pathways being only there to trick you, you are forced to backtrack a lot. When the game can be beaten in 40 minutes, it is a shame more polish could not have been provided to the puzzles.
Gameplay Score: 3.5/10
Style and no substance
The first aspect of the presentation that is going to hit you, is the uncomfortable soundtrack. It is a mess of distorted, industrial and electronic music-instruments, providing an off beat that is meant to make you feel at unease. It is severely effective, despite being repetitive. The same goes for the sound effects, as you will hear your protagonist breath heavily whenever a flashback occurs and even her heartbeat, which is neat. I don’t understand the sound of a plane flying downwards as you get closer to the doors before the next chapter though. As for the rest of the sounds, it consists of two characters speaking, but neither are competent actors. Their voices are solid in their pronunciation and are pleasant, but their direction is something out of Microsoft Sam’s school of acting.
Then there are the visuals, which are problematic. I love the art they went with, as it represents drawings a talented kid could make, with clear line marks and scribbles obscuring the areas around you, with the flashbacks being a mash of quick drawings, due to how much they frighten her. It provides a great effect to the style, and makes the lack of color the memory-flames pop up more. However, the imagery relies heavily on body-horror, insects and other uncomfortable vibes, which makes it feel like the developers wanted to just scare the player, instead of telling them something uncomfortable through visual means.
Presentation Score: 5/10
This is clearly a product with effort put into it, but it is too vague to be worthwhile and I can’t say I had even a serviceable time with the puzzles. The visuals are intriguing, but contains random fear instead of something solid for representing the character’s struggle. At least the sounds are uncomfortable even with the poor actors, but does not help when the theming of memory and insight to one person’s subconsciousness is poorly implemented in the story, presentation, and gameplay. Overall: Path to Mnemosyne is an interesting title that has no idea how to progress with its concept. It is rather the starting-line to something potentially good, before the road collapse with every step.
- Themed around memories in both story and gameplay
- A couple of puzzles are fun
- Sound effects are uncomfortable and go well with the distorted music
- The pencil-style for art is a clever and well-made choice
- Relies on shock value and phobias
- Imagery is not tied in with the story
- Unfinished character-study
- No clever writing or symbolism
- Rest of puzzles are either blatantly simple or drags on for long
- Uneven difficulty
- Mazes that forces backtracking
- Robotic voice actors