Game: Some Distant Memory
Genre: Adventure, Indie
System: Steam (Windows /Linux) (Also on Nintendo Switch)
Developer | Publisher: Galvanic Games | Way Down Deep
Price: UK £9.99 | US $12.99 | EU € 9.99
Release Date: November 14th, 2019
No review code was used; I purchased the game myself.
Some Distant Memory is a 2019 game developed by Galvanic Games and released by Way Down Deep.
With its cartoon art style and hand-drawn visuals, intriguing storyline, and nearly smooth controls, the game offers an immersive exploration experience that players of all ages and genres can enjoy.
The story is set some 300 years in the future after an environmental crisis, the Collapse, unleashed poisonous algae, which corrupted and changed life on Earth as we know it. Humanity has barely survived in a few colonies, scavenging the wastelands and looking for the ruins of life on Earth when humans could breathe and walk outside without a suit. We play as Professor Zay, an archaeologist, and the leader of one of the more prosperous of those colonies, Ares, created initially to prepare humanity for life on Mars. ARORA, an AI, and Commander Ti, a security officer from another colony, accompany the Professor.
Our heroes are on a mission to find the sunken city of Houston, hoping to discover technologies and supplies untouched by the algae. The Professor falls into the ruins of an ancient house, almost perfectly preserved, along with the memories of an entire family. While the game’s objective is to find a way out of the house, it also answers what exactly the Collapse was and how to help humanity survive. By scanning photos, journals, poems, books and other artefacts, ARORA’s Memory Reconstruction system can recreate the memories of the people who lived there and discover what happened to them.
The controls of Some Distant Memory are relatively straightforward and easy to learn, allowing for a rather intuitive experience. You have buttons for movement, scanning, and mapping. Scanning activates ARORA and highlights any objects of interest in the player’s vicinity. Scanning objects move the story along. The map is helpful for navigation as it shows blocked and locked passages and completed and incomplete memories.
The game is pure exploration. In fact, it may be classified as a walking sim or a more interactive version of a visual novel. There is no combat or scavenging for supplies, making for a very relaxing experience.
One of the things I really enjoyed in the game was the relationship between the characters. ARORA felt like a living companion rather than AI. While most of the game, The Professor is separated from the Commander, they interact through radio communication. The Commander comments on almost everything the Professor encounters, especially early in the game. Through them, we can discern how humanity has lived and developed in the different colonies on Earth.
Through ARORA’s ability to reconstruct the family’s memories, we see not only the relationships between family members but also between the family and the rest of society, especially toward the end. The little pop culture references will be fun for most players.
The game reminded me heavily of Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles – especially the short story. There Will Come Soft Rains – where an unoccupied, highly automated house stands and operates intact in a city, destroyed by a nuclear bomb. That house still feels alive even though humanity is lost, and the house in Some Distant Memory, although a little worse for wear, still feels like it’s waiting for its occupants to come home. The little things that make a house feel like home are still there, photos and children’s drawings, well-loved novels, and journals. The house is like a time capsule, capturing the love and grief its occupants experienced.
Speaking of, it’s almost impossible to play as an archaeologist in the future and not be reminded of Stargate‘s Daniel Jackson or Doctor Who‘s Doctor River Song, among others. Still, Some Distant Memory is more relaxing and somewhat thought-provoking in the vein of Bradbury.
The soundtrack helps with the worldbuilding. The music is by Toytree (Amos Roddy), whom I was unfamiliar with, but did an excellent job; it’s minimalistic and futuristic while still emotional and somewhat gentle. That being said, there is also a sense of humour.
The voice acting might put some people off as the speech is presented in bubbles. At the same time, the audio is babble, not unlike the Simlish language in The Sims. Every character has unique babble, and while the words are unintelligible, there is still an undercurrent of emotion.
Some more notes
And there is genuine emotion in this story. The experience of playing it is not unlike reading an excellent sci-fi novel. While human relationships are at the heart of the story, it also serves as a commentary on the effects of environmental issues and consumerism. The story feels believable not only because the place feels lived in and the characters alive but also because the Collapse as a result of human effect on the environment is also quite possible. In a way, Some Distant Memory might be seen as a cautionary tale on the impact of pollution, not unlike the more recent Bear and Breakfast or Endling – Extinction is Forever.
It is easy to fall in love with the hand-drawn art style of Some Distant Memory, its narrative, and its characters. The story ends on an emotional, hopeful note that opens the door for sequels or DLCs. In my opinion, this is a game worth experiencing and will leave an impression long after completion.
Final Verdict: Two Thumbs Up: