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Memory Link Review

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There is plenty of room on the Xbox for more mature platforming games. Some of our favourite games of the past ten years have been in that category, so the more the merrier. Memory Link even shares a resemblance to one of our favourites, Limbo, and we jumped at the opportunity to review it for all of those reasons. 

Memory Link is so light-touch with its story that we couldn’t say with confidence what it is about. We’re following a blindfolded boy, and the reason for the blindfold isn’t abundantly clear. Perhaps it’s metaphorical, as he can’t see what’s in front of him, thanks to the memories he keeps chasing? We may be looking too much into it. He is holding onto a memory of a red-headed girl, who skips through the game like a ghost. 

She is the one who spurs the boy on, as he moves on from what seems to be his desolate hometown, which again gets our speculation cogs whirring. Is everyone dead? Does it have something to do with the blindfold? Regardless, it’s your plot, and you will get what you’re given. From the town we head into industrial and more natural surroundings. 

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Again, things get a bit more aimless, which is going to be our keyword for this review. There’s a general sense that you should be pressing onward, but for what or in which direction isn’t wholly clear. There will be several moments where you head in a direction, believing it to be the right one, only to find one of the game’s ‘memories’, a kind of floating, orange ball. They are the game’s way of saying that you’ve gone the wrong way – this is a secondary path – and you should probably go elsewhere. 

Those memories are at least useful for something, as you can come across hotspots that require a minimum number of them. If you have enough, you can access a fleeting remembrance of the girl, which is commonly just her swanning about, ignoring you. It’s not exactly a Bioshock journal in terms of richness. 

Navigating Memory Link’s world can lead to primal screams of “what do you want from me?”. The levels aren’t difficult, particularly: there’s no combat here, and the challenge largely comes from progressively more difficult platforming sequences. Platforms start to disappear, move (sometimes at an incredibly fast pace), and require you to hold down run if you want any chance of reaching the other side. But nothing really qualifies as a challenge.

Some challenge comes from the scuffed controls. There’s a slight delay in the main character’s jump, so you have to anticipate a leap somewhat. And almost every leap is made easier by holding the run button – you can gain the benefits of it even if you’re standing on the smallest of platforms – so you spend the whole game holding that button down, which feels ungainly. These are all made clumsier by a game world that has some real oddnesses. You can land yourself on walls and girders, which can be a boon when you’re looking to reach a higher platform (and often leading to questions of “was I meant to do this?”), or an infuriation if you were just looking to make a simple jump and they get in the way. 

Memory Link’s levels aren’t particularly legible, either. It loves to get arty and moody, dropping silhouettes into the foreground and background as decoration (sometimes obscuring the whole screen in shadow or foliage). But they don’t half look like feasible platforms, and they get muddled at the worst possible times. We restarted back at the checkpoint-cats (a new one to add to the list of things that have been used as checkpoints in gaming) more often than we’d like, simply because platforms weren’t platforms.

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But the real kicker is how poorly some levels inform you of what you need to do. Plinths and pedestals look like decoration, but you need to absolutely be using them. Yet Memory Link gives you no clue how, so it’s entirely possible – and likely, going by the two people who played it in our house – to get unutterably stuck at the end of a level.

Which brings us back to the keyword of ‘aimless’. We were lost for so much of Memory Link, and when we weren’t, we were grappling with some leaden controls and awkward levels. It’s not the greatest red pill-blue pill choice we’ve ever been given: do you want to be confused or annoyed?

There are moments of clarity where Memory Link manages to chain together some platforms that work well and feel like the right way to go. But they happen more by luck than anything deliberate. We got the feeling that Memory Link was created by a developer for themselves, with a story so wispy that only the original writer knows what’s going on, and some environmental puzzles that are so obscure that only the person with the solution knows what’s happening.

The silver lining is that Memory Link gifts you 1000G for barely fifteen minutes of play. And they’re the least frustrating fifteen minutes, so go fill your boots. In the achievement community, a full Gamerscore for £3.99 might not be that bad a deal.

Memory Link sticks in the memory for the wrong reasons. Stiff controls and non-existent guidance means that you’ll spend most of the time lost in a playground which isn’t all that fun to play within in the first place. Sure, it’s free with its achievements, but it needs to do far more than that to impress.

You can buy Memory Link from the Xbox Store

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