A Memoir Blue: An Emotionally Charged Work Of Art – Switch Review
One of my favourite games from last year was the gorgeous space-hopping extravaganza, The Artful Escape. It spoke to me on so many levels, offering me an engaging way to not only explore the protagonists’ own insecurities in a clever and evocative way but also my own. It was published by the ever-prolific and profound Annapurna Interactive who seem to prioritise meaningful narrative-centric singleplayer experiences – which is sort of my jam. Similarly, A Memoir Blue is published by Annapurna Interactive. This is undoubtedly likely what spurred me to review it in the first place. Just like The Artful Escape before it, A Memoir Blue manages to tell a heartfelt narrative in a truly unique way to create an engrossingly memorable experience that is likely to become one of the year’s best indies.
“A Memoir Blue opts to use powerful imagery and visual metaphors to convey its instantly recognisable themes.”
What makes A Memoir Blue so special is its magic realist narrative that takes centre stage every chance it gets. The sprawling tale that stretches throughout a swirling sea like a piece of seaweed dragged along a rapid current perfectly encapsulates each and every emotion with an immense sense of gravitas. It feels simultaneously cartoonishly cheerful – as the protagonist recollects the happiest moments of her childhood while ethereal fish swim around a darkening abyss – and solemnly sombre.
This captivating narrative is greatly assisted by the game’s complete lack of dialogue. Like the movie The Red Turtle – which utilises similar themes and imagery to tell a stunning tale of parenthood – A Memoir Blue’s lack of any dialogue completely immerses you into its surrealist fantasy and allows for the touching bond between mother and daughter to take precedent. It opts to use powerful imagery and visual metaphors to convey its instantly recognisable themes. This, in my opinion, creates a far greater lasting impression.
Furthermore, despite the fact that I didn’t necessarily relate to the game’s central theme, I nevertheless felt thoroughly engaged throughout and experienced every heartfelt moment as intended. Of course, this is in large part due to the game’s gorgeous soundtrack that engulfs the game like a comforting blanket. It ebbs and flows like the very seas it trickles across, crescendoing at deeply emotional moments and softly fading into the background when the tempo of the narrative slows down.
“A Memoir Blue is around forty-five minutes in length, proving to be an extremely short but sweet tale.”
It also helps that A Memoir Blue’s seamless blend of animation and video game visuals is not only a genuinely novel concept but strikingly powerful. The blending of these two mediums helps to perfectly contrast the distinctly unique stages of the protagonists’ life. This in turn creates a meaningful sense of nostalgia within the player. It also further elevates the sense of magic realism while ensuring that the surrealist elements never stray too far into abstract territory.
However, all of this beauty is over before you’ve managed to truly settle into its majesty. A Memoir Blue is roughly around forty-five minutes in length, thus proving to be an extremely short but sweet tale. While shorter games certainly have their place, I couldn’t help but feel that A Memoir Blue would have been better suited to being a short film instead. This is also largely due to the shallow gameplay that is oftentimes a little too obtrusive.
“When the story had time to show off its gorgeous collection of dreamlike wonders, I felt a far more tangible connection to it.”
A Memoir Blue is a point in click game in so much as you point and click at things. Every minute or so you’ll have to complete a relatively basic puzzle such as printing off train tickets or turning on a boat. While some of these interactive elements do help to further the story and immerse you deeper into its narrative – such as smashing up a room, peeling back pages of a photo album or moving aside trophies to make space for memories – the majority of them feel as if they exist purely to make A Memoir Blue’s existence as a video game legitimate.
While they never last particularly long, these moments of gameplay only serve to distract from the overall narrative. As a result, they greatly diminish its overall effect. When the story had time to breathe, to show off its gorgeous collection of animated segments and dreamlike wonders, I felt a far more tangible connection to it. However, while never frustrated, whenever I had to endure another short puzzle I felt that connection dwindle.
This was exacerbated by a crash that occurred barely seconds before the game concluded. Unfortunately, at the time I was not aware I had reached the end of the game. As a result, I started it up again. However, the game doesn’t open with a main menu – although it is accessible it is partially obscured – and I, therefore, had to contemplate starting all over again. Fortunately, I found the main menu and was able to continue where I had left off. However, this was certainly an immersion-breaking experience.
“This is a genuinely beautiful and emotional experience that is absolutely worth experiencing for yourself.”
Nevertheless, despite these various criticisms, I would still strongly recommend A Memoir Blue. This is largely because I viewed it more as a masterfully crafted piece of artwork filled with unbridled creativity, passion and genuine heart throughout my time with it than a video game. It utilises its medium to help convey its phenomenally told narrative in a more immersive way, and that has, for the most part, been executed rather spectacularly.
Even for those who wish to see it as a video game, A Memoir Blue more than justifies its shortcomings. Its low price point makes up for its shorter length, and its phenomenal narrative helps conceal its occasionally lacklustre gameplay. This is a genuinely beautiful and emotional experience that is absolutely worth experiencing for yourself.
*Disclaimer: Reviewed on the Nintendo Switch, code was provided by the Publisher.
A Memoir Blue Review
A Memoir Blue is a beautiful work of art that perfectly encapsulates the often tumultuous relationship between a parent and their child. Regardless of whether or not you can directly relate to the subject matter, the developers have so cleverly crafted a creative and heartfelt narrative that you're likely to come away from it either in tears or in a deeply contemplative mood. While its short length, shallow gameplay and an irritating crash do let it down somewhat, this is, nevertheless, an incredibly captivating piece of art that masterfully blends animation and video games in a truly magical way.