This very personal, beautifully brief autobiographical game is, without a doubt, one of the best games of this year for me. It is a very original experience, after all, many people view artists and their art as two separate things, but here we see the artist combined into a game in a very touching way.
Opening with a short note “the more you play, the more you know me,” straight away gives the player the sense that they are about to enter someone else’s personal life. Seeing everything, and literally being Alex in this game made it feel even more personal than it already was. In a way, Memoir En Code: Reissue can be seen as a snapshot of the creator’s life, except you get to play around with it interactively. “I want to put the player in my shoes. Your eyes are my eyes. You are me” – says a part of the commentary right at the start of the game, which is very fitting since the game begins in a first-person perspective.
The game consists of many game-within-a-game mechanics, which help with getting achievements if you’re a fan of those like I am. It felt so satisfying to be able to get these. To make it even better, there is a reward in the sense of a lovely secret message, and a commentary if you get all the keys from resolving each short episode of the game. Another cool feature you get when finishing the game is with the use of the G button, which shows glimpses of what the game originally looked like, it is quite a contrast.
Besides being an autobiographical game, it is actually made up of eight mini-games, there are also so many different ways to play them. In essence, these eight games are the eight key moments of the creator’s life. The game perfectly combines the use of arrow keys, WASD keys, space button, left click, well, you get the point. There’s something in it for everyone really.
The creator addresses many issues that games don’t often reflect on. One of these issues is bullying, which was noted not only in the commentary but in a loop-like mini game. Here, we find Alex walking up to a mirror, but the reflection he sees is distorted by the society, which made fun of him. With short hair, the ears were visible, and with that started the creepy looking stares from the red eyes, that peered right into his back. It was made really clear that this was an endless circle.
The next is dealing with long distance relationships, while also dealing with one’s emotions and telling the truth. With each conversation choice, you get to see two lovers, whose clothes change as the mini game goes on, reflecting on all the times they had to part. Not wanting to make the lover upset, it was difficult to tell each other the truth, in some parts, impossible. An example is from the screenshot above, as a response to if Alex is alright we get these choices, but they aren’t actually choices. Once you hover the mouse over each of the answers, you find that whatever you say, the answer will be “yes”. In this way, Alex shows us the variety of timelines, and the variety of conversations that are yet so similar.
The difficulties of studies, and dealing with it in a family setting is yet another aspect of life that Alex focuses on. Families don’t often help when it comes to trying to study for an exam, since they often do things they feel like doing, such as cleaning, or cooking or watching TV. Alex portrays his family as very talkative, and able to make a lot of noise. Either way, parents seem unsatisfied whatever the result of the exam is. If you fail, they are disappointed, if you’re average they’re indifferent, if you do great they get suspicious. Don’t all students have that issue with their parents too? Lovely representation.
For all the romantics who know goodbyes are the hardest, I thought I should let you know that I cried playing this game. Saying goodbyes is not always necessarily good. These can end in a kiss, or even having to forget someone. Seeing pictures, that actually existed in real life, within the game, was a lovely touch, and when looking back at the photo at the end of the game, at the end of the relationship, we can see our main character falling apart. There even is a warning that says: “Press Esc once again to quit the game” if you click the photograph too many times. It was absolutely soul-crushing to have that as the end of the game. Since the real life events had affected Alex so much, he was unable to work on Memoir En Code for a long amount of time, which certainly wasn’t an easy thing to put into a game.
It is important to also keep in mind that this is a reissue, the first release of Memoir En Code was nowhere near as beautiful as the reissue. It was all very pixelated, very 2D. Of course, as the commentary says, there have been some bits added to the game, and Alex himself admits to being unsure as to how he feels about them, but having replayed the game a few times, I don’t see any part of the game as unnecessary.
You will be able to find creativity within the game too, there was a mini-game designed just for that too. Walking around a secluded beach was lovely, leaving a trail of footprints, was meant to be a space of time for the player to relax, to watch the waves come and go, to skip some rocks, or even just kick them around. As you can see I took that as an opportunity to draw a little picture for the fellow writers of PN2 to appreciate.
Before buying the game I noticed that it was described as an album, a collection of Alex’s most important moments, but the music that goes along with it really adds to the mood of the game. Showing the good and the bad, and reflecting on it beautifully. In a way, it can be seen as a tribute to all the people involved, it certainly can be for the last track, but I won’t spoil the commentary for you entirely.
What truly made this game so incredible, is that even though it is only one person’s experience, only one person’s snapshot of life, it is still so beautifully relatable. And it is beautiful to see that people can put bad experiences in a good light too, as well as provide the people from their lives with respect, no matter how bad things get. This game is a treasure, a masterpiece in its own right.