This review first featured on the now offline 1P Start.
If you’re after something a bit surreal, sinister, and off-kilter, then Past Memories is the game for you. This game is a 2D runner for mobile devices and is available for just £0.56p on the Google Play site. There are quite a few runner style games out there in mobile land, so it was always going to take quite an effort to develop one that stands out from the crowd. Give Me Five have done exactly that in a very good way.
There’s not much room in this style of game for a story driven core, but here we have a psychological tale of an obviously traumatized woman who seems to be facing (quite literally) the demons of her past. To survive these memories, she has to beat them by, in a somewhat contradictory manner, running away from them. Sound strange? That’s just the beginning. Throughout the game you will come across a wonderful variety of well imagined and very well drawn apparitions. These can range from wolves, to rats, and maybe a giant ferris wheel.
Continuing on the art style, it’s a very dark and foreboding world that has been created in Past Memories. Monochromatic, with just a hint of colour here and there really draws you into this nightmare. In addition, you have the back drops with their exaggerated size, all just to emphasize that the character you control is small and insignificant, and will never escape from this place. Each of the levels is themed to give you an idea of what kind of memory the woman is reliving at the time. A circus and a school are just a couple of examples of what you’ll face. There is also scenery in the foreground which you will run behind. On the whole the foreground scenery is a nice touch to further help with the immersion, but it can sometimes get in the way. An example of this that I came across is a foreground column, that has a rat spawn directly behind it and then move toward you at the same pace. As a result, you have no idea what just happened. This and a couple of other instances of questionable spawning locations can prove to be a source of frustration, but not enough to frustrate you nearly enough to throw your mobile device across the room… well I didn’t anyway.
Odd spawning issues aside, this is a very technically clean game. There were no frame rate issues, no graphical glitches, and no crashes. So bug free in my book apart from some of the enemies in the game. The controls are pretty much what you would expect of a runner title. You tap the screen to jump and you tap the screen harder to jump higher and further. The other ‘control’ is what you will use on the occasions when you pick up one of a small selection of power ups throughout the game. Upon pick up, they will appear in the bottom-left of your screen, to be tapped when you wish to activate them. They are a quite useful little collection and will either assist you in moving away from your enemies or prevent them from following you. In addition, Past Memories encourages at least a second play through, by unlocking an additional power up upon your first completion of the game.
As far as difficulty goes, Past Memories is well balanced. The opening level is easy, yet challenging enough to require your attention as you time your jumps so as not to slow down so that the chasing creatures can catch you. This difficulty increases at a fair pace, always bringing more obstacles and monsters to challenge you, while never pushing you towards rage quit territory. At some points, you’ll be in a situation where the creatures will be close enough to get you if you make one tiny mistake, but that just adds to the feeling of suspense and anxiety which the woman is supposed to experience. To stop that situation from going on for too long, floating flames are put at various parts of each level for you to jump into and destroy the current chasing pack. This relieves the tension for a little while only for it to build again later, so as to keep you on your toes. Speaking of the floating flames, there is a clever mechanic attached to them where, upon contact, not only do they remove the chasing enemies, but also swaps the black and white colour scheme to its opposite. The black background is now white and the white platform you were running on is now black. It also works very well as each colour scheme then changes the type of creatures that chase you.
To finish, every great game has great music, and I wouldn’t be doing this game justice if I didn’t speak about it. It has been masterfully put together to fit the themes of each level. What stands out for me is the circus level, which starts with a jaunty little tune, but slows down and distorts as you progress. It lends an extra level of immersion to the game, really convincing you that you’re trapped in a surreal nightmare. I can easily say this is the most immersive mobile game I’ve played and I look forward to seeing the new levels that Give Me Five will release.
Ed’s Note: The developer has informed us today that a larger update will be released in the coming week promising to “fix some gameplay annoyances and change some puzzles”. Among these fixes are the issue with the rat spawning behind a column.
Technical: The levels are well paced and challenging enough to keep you interested, although one or two spawning issues can grate. Still, that’s only a minor gripe which could be easily fixed. 5.0 / 6.0
Presentation: Past Memories manages to create an immersive and believable story, which is a rare thing for a game of this genre. The music and sound are wonderfully interwoven into the game to pull you deeper into the nightmare. The level themes also pack a punch and could very well be based on real-life psychological trauma. Some people are terrified of clowns and others have had a bad time of it going through their school years. 5.5 / 6.0
Gameplay: The levels split into two and sometimes three paths for you to choose between. None of them are easier or harder than the others, but they each present their own challenge with a good variety of creatures for each. 5.0 / 6.0
Overall: Fantastic immersive story and easy to pick up and play. Atmosphere and suspense, with just a touch of fear. And all of this for less than £1. Great job by Give Me Five! 5.0 / 6.0
AVERAGE SCORE: 5.125 / 6.0 | (85%)