Read Only Memories: Neurodiver Review: Operation Mindcrime

This game that takes a stroll down memory lane always feels as if it wants for more context.

Read Only Memories: Neurodiver
Photo: MidBoss

In the year 2070, evolution has begun to give birth to a new race of humans: the Espers. Blessed with psychic abilities, many of them choose to live in peace. Some, though, have chosen to use their gifts to assert dominance over humanity. In response, others have opted to join the advanced defense agency known as MINERVA to stop them. One of them, Luna, has now been bonded with a Neurodiver, a lab-grown cephalopod Esper that enhances her abilities, allowing her to explore memories as if she’s living them.

On paper, that sounds like an ambitious, big-budget remake of David Cronenberg’s Scanners, one of many a sci-fi fan’s dreams, and really, that’s part of the problem with Read Only Memories: Neurodiver. Its premise opens the door to an immense, far-reaching embarrassment of creative options that the game—a bright, breezy, anime-flavored follow-up to 2064: Read Only Memories—is largely either unwilling or unequipped to tap into.

So, yes, it’s a little disappointing that Neurodiver isn’t living up to what it absolutely could be. That, though, doesn’t take anything away from what it is, especially when compared to its slightly more intricate predecessor. Neurodiver is more visual novel than point-and-click adventure. It’s styled like a late-’80s anime along the lines of a Bubblegum Crisis or the 1988 Appleseed, with a chipper, adorkable protagonist and a good-natured sense of humor, even when the plot is at its weirdest and most abstract. It’s got a story to tell, a central mystery involving an Esper named the Golden Butterfly running around Neo-San Francisco scrambling the memories of certain notable figures—a fair few from 2064, in fact—and doesn’t put a whole lot in the player’s way to see the mystery solved and get to the conclusion.


The problem isn’t so much with the mildly on-rails feeling of the plot. By and large, the characters we meet and the futuristic pixel-art Bay Area they reside in are all consistently well-drawn in every sense of the term. It’s a joy guiding Luna through the awkwardness of her first major case, her eye-opening personal connection with the Golden Butterfly, and her burgeoning crush on her business partner, Gate, in all her shoulder-padded glory.

But given how well Neurodiver works as a rather straightforward story, the few obstacles it does put in the player’s way end up being awkward speed bumps than enjoyable mechanics. This is particularly true during the titular neurodives, where a victim’s memories may be incomplete, replaced with glitchy placeholder elements until Luna can find the objects in the environment that can jolt the victim’s memory back into compliance. These puzzles, if you can call them that, offer little to no feedback on what the correct objects to unlock the memory should be, leading to a lot of trial-and-error solutions along the way, and it leeches the fun out of the proceedings.

One gets the sense that adding that little bit of extra context might’ve made Neurodiver feel more Phoenix Wright than the folks at MiniBoss intended. But that wouldn’t have necessarily been a bad thing given that the game always feels as if wants for, well, more context. It’s a testament to the work that was done by MidBoss that the game’s characters, their history with the various conflicts of the world, and the specific psychic damage being done to the Golden Butterfly’s victims that Neurodiver will leave players wanting more. There are just far too many moments where wanting to know more crosses the line into “the game isn’t providing enough.”

This game was reviewed with code provided by Dead Good Media.

 Developer: MidBoss  Publisher: MidBoss, Chorus Worldwide, Serenity Forge  Platform: PC  ESRB: T  ESRB Descriptions: Language, Use of Alcohol  Buy: Game

Justin Clark

Justin Clark is a gaming critic based out of Massachusetts. His writing has also appeared in Gamespot.

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