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Memento Mori Review (PC)

Searching around an apartment for a mobile phone charger then moving a bin out the way to find a plug socket to charge an ancient mobile phone whose battery has died. Welcome to the world of international crime! In point and click title Memento Mori, no task is too mundane to be included as an element of gameplay.

It might be an inauspicious start, but Memento Mori continues with tasks that are thoroughly grounded in the real world. The opening sections of the game feature puzzles like charging your mobile, finding the correct spot in a room to get sufficient cell phone coverage to make a call and convincing a surly IT manager to requisition you a new phone battery. It’s not all excitement and action though. I also had to find a CD for someone, locate its case and combine the two items and give it to a friend to pass along when they next meet the owner. Oh, and I also went to the office then realised I had no pen, so fast travelled back to my apartment, picked up a marker and returned to the office. My heart was beating like a fucking jackhammer!

So Memento Mori isn’t exactly a Michael Bay movie when it comes to action and spectacle. In fact, while the story might have more in common with a Dan Brown novel, there’s barely even that much action. It’s more like a game where you do the things you might do in real life. A modern life simulator. Early on, if I had been asked to fill in a home insurance forms, replace the batteries on my smoke detector and change a fuse in a plug I wouldn’t have been surprised. Mememnto Mori may be the first game I’ve played where the events on screen are less exciting than things happening in my house. Never before have I had to play a game to escape the unbearable excitement of doing the laundry, but if I had to, Memento Mori would do the trick.

Now this may make Memento Mori sound like a terrible game, but the truth is I found a strange, sedate fascination with its pedestrian pacing. I’m tired of skydiving out a plane to land on a snowboard and slide down a mountain, all the while shooting enemies with a machine gun as the world explodes around me. I’m ready for something a bit slower, more cerebral and with less relentless action. Ok, maybe Memento Mori is taking this to ludicrous new levels of mundanity, but I still found the gentle pacing and real-world setting to be curiously, soporifically engaging.

The characters are a strange mix of European nationalities and as such it can be hard to determine if the dialogue is bad or whether its just the way the different nationalities express themselves. The story meanwhile might involve forged art, international crime and ancient secret societies, but it’s still a sedate affair with more time spent calling people and finding everyday objects than dodging bullets.

While not exactly memorable, the characters are likeable enough. Most of their dialogue will be comments on the things in the environment so its hard to blame the voice actors when they have to deliver lines (to no one) like: “surprisingly the rags are quite dry”. Shocking!

The gameplay meanwhile is as standard point-and-click as you can get. You can combine items simply by bringing up an inventory at the top of the screen and clicking one item then another. Meanwhile, you can click an item then something in the environment to use that item somewhere in the world. Moving is simple but slow. You click where you want to walk, but your character moves at a speed appropriate to the real world which is glacial in a game context. The menu for items is also frustratingly hidden at the top of the screen and pops down when you move your cursor up there, meaning that when you try to click something towards the top of the screen you bring the menu down instead.

If there’s one thing to like about Memento Mori, it’s the environments. While the character models are glassy eyed and stiff (with bad facial animation) the world of Memento Mori is atmospheric and convincing. You can imagine these environments are based on real world equivalents and they look good and are full of detail. They can also be immersive; exploring a quiet, empty art gallery at night while rain beats at the windows really sucked me into the game world.

Throughout the game you switch between controlling an Interpol agent called Larisa and an art forger called Maxim. Neither of the characters are too heroic or inspiring, but neither are they irritating. At one point Maxim almost steps on a ladder that wobbles a bit. Somewhat dramatically he exclaims, “I could have died!”. Calm down Maxim.

Czech developers Centauri Productions have crafted a perfectly enjoyable but thoroughly pedestrian point-and-click game with Memento Mori. If you enjoy this style of game then there’s a good chance you will enjoy this subtle title with puzzles thoroughly grounded in reality.

Memento Mori means (roughly) “Remember you will die”. A less dramatic, more appropriate title for this slow paced adventure might be Memento Mobile Charger. Or, you know, Memento whatever-mobile-phone-charger-is-in-Latin

6 puzzles about mundane modern living out of 10

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