The first Memento Mori game came out in 2008, and until about six months ago it was one of those games that sat in my Steam library unplayed and unnoticed. When I found out I’d be reviewing the second one, I thought I’d do the fair thing and give it a playthrough, so that I could truly give Memento Mori 2 the thoroughly researched review that it deserved. As it turns out, I think I would have been better off if I hadn’t, because maybe then I wouldn’t have noticed some of the blaring flaws with this frequently confusing and inconsistent game.
The game centres around the protagonists of the original, Max and Lara, who are now on their honeymoon in South Africa after the budding romance that bloomed at the end of the first game. Max, an artist and ex-criminal who occasionally works for Interpol identifying cases of art fraud, has been reliving traumatic events from his past and painting them out in horrifying, nightmare-inducing pictures that I definitely wouldn’t want to display on my honeymoon if I was interested in a romantic atmosphere. Lara, a detective who actually works for Interpol, is trying to put work aside for awhile – but that, of course, wouldn’t make for a very interesting game. After a call from Lara’s boss, the two are quickly drawn into investigating the theft of an important ancient artefact that just happens to have occurred right near where they’re staying, and things escalate from there.
And boy, don’t they escalate. Investigating crime scenes means choosing from dialogue options to talk to the various locals and investigating crime scenes to discover clues or objects that will help you further your investigation, but it wasn’t until after the very long first act that your dialogue choices actually started having any affect on how things played out. Without spoiling too much, the game quickly switches from a slow-paced, somewhat frustrating point-and-click involving lots of backtracking (my personal pet peeve) to some kind of detective game, focused on Lara’s abilities as a detective and your abilities as a player to read large chunks of dialogue and remember tiny pieces of information. If you remember case information wrongly when asked you are penalised, and the detective grade you are given at the end of each act is reduced. Don’t get me wrong, I really like the idea of being scored on how thoroughly you investigate, but when a chunk of information is thrown at you at once and sometimes objects are almost impossible to click on in the environment, it quickly starts to feel like you’re failing not because of your own lack of skill, but because the game doesn’t encourage success.
For a game that involved a lot of backtracking and switching between areas, the loading times were also notably slow. It’s not a bad looking game on the whole, I can see why it might take some time to load those environments, but it didn’t really feel like the payoff was good enough. The only thing I could think about when I was watching the characters’ faces during close-ups was how much the whole thing looked like the Sims 3, and I honestly don’t know whether or not this is a good thing. The Sims 3 was a much bigger budget game, so it’s good that a game from a smaller studio has reached that level of animation, but it felt outdated. While I’m talking about the negatives, it’s also worth mentioning the thing that annoyed me most: the voice acting. Not only was it bad, but despite the fact that it was supposed to be set in South Africa and feature a Russian (Lara) and a French (Max) protagonist, everyone was very, very American. Maybe I wouldn’t have noticed if I didn’t know that the voice actors for the first game actually attempted the French and Russian accents, but it took me right out of the experience, and I’m kind of disappointed about it.
For all its flaws, Memento Mori 2 wasn’t all bad. A lot of effort was clearly put into the details and story of this game even if it felt like too much when it was being delivered to you, and a lot of it was actually really interesting to learn. The characters – when I turned the sound off – had occasional moments of true emotion and I actually got a little attached to Lara in particular, who you spend more time with. Though often unclear, a lot of the puzzles were actually quite clever–I had some fun with them, and even though I complained about the harsh scoring of Lara’s detective work, it was nice to play a game that actually gave you a taste of the everyday aspects of a job like hers. If I didn’t do paperwork, I was penalised: that’s real world simulation right there.
Though the story didn’t have a consistent pace, the ending of the game was quite interesting, and was clearly reflective of some of the choices I’d made throughout the game, which is always a plus. I just wish that getting to that ending had been more fun and less rage-inducing than it was, and then maybe I could recommend this game more highly. It just feels like it could have been so much more than the final product.
Select Start Media was provided with a review copy of Memento Mori 2 by Bohemia Interactive.