My Memory Of Us is a new indie game from Polish developer Juggler Games. A puzzle based adventure side-scroller, the game tells the tale of two nameless children, a boy and a girl, who are stuck in a dystopian alternate reality where robots have occupied their country. These robot overlords force whom they dub lesser citizens to wear red, marking them. The game is very much an allegory for the Nazi occupation of Poland in World War II. Do not expect to get into this game for a good time. My Memory Of Us is a social commentary and will kick you right in the feels.
The story of My Memory Of Us is told via the narration of the young boy, now an old man, voiced by the wonderful Patrick Stewart. A young girl finds an old picture album in his book store and he proceeds to tell her the tale to accompany the pictures. Players get to live out these experiences in playable flashbacks. Sit back, listen to Mr. Stewart, open your heart, and you may just learn about real life history in a way.
While the story in My Memory Of Us is very well thought out and an obvious sci-fi take on the occupation of Poland by the Nazi party, the video game medium is not something I ever thought I would see used in this manner. Yes we have many movies, books, and even a graphic novel, Maus by Art Spiegelman, depicting this tragic chapter in history in different ways, but games generally tend to avoid such moral and hard to breach subjects. The childlike depiction in My Memory Of Us, a game for all ages, made me instantly curious, as many readers may also be.
My Memory Of Us does a fantastic job of fictionalizing history in a manner all ages can follow but unfortunately has to water down many aspects for this very same reason. I am not really sure what I was expecting, but gameplay in My Memory Of Us quickly had me feeling like Juggler Games was just tossing in various overused video game puzzle mechanics to create a game out of a subject that honestly feels out of place in the medium. It just feels wrong to be playing a mini game to get apples for the young girls disabled father, so they can eat. Then another just to set the table. Life for Jews in Poland in the early 1940’s was not a game and it can feel like My Memory Of Us is so set on portraying a story that the games were an afterthought, just filler to categorize it as a game and not just an interactive story.
The basic non-puzzle based gameplay consists of controlling the boy and the girl independently or by holding hands for both in a side scrolling environment. The boy has the ability to crouch and sneak and the girl can run. Juggling these around is enjoyable and utilized in some obstacles where separating them to flip a switch to lower an elevator for your friend to join you in the next area are common. I honestly think I would of been ok with just this mechanic and a good story. The mini games are just too easy, boring, and overdone in My Memory Of Us.
Graphically My Memory Of Us looks great. It has a sort of cartoonish look reminiscent of comic strips of the era like Betty Boop and cartoons from Disney. The entire game only uses a dull black and white tone except for the color red, the color the robot overlords force people to wear. This is of course reference to the yellow Star of David the Nazi’s forced Jews to wear or display outside of their businesses. Unfortunately it also left me thinking that the same color scheme has been used before in one of the most heart wrenching and emotional movies of all time, Schindler’s List. One cannot help but think of the girl in the red coat hiding in the bottom of a shit filled outhouse. I can see why it was done, to really to push the message, but it ended up feeling like an easily stolen visual scheme.
At about five hours to complete, depending on your skill with the puzzles, My Memory Of Us is a game you really should plan to just sit down and complete in one go. While it may be a rehash of old tropes gameplay wise, the story itself is what kept me going. It may be a hard subject to discuss in real life, but My Memory Of Us does what it set out to do and is a game the whole family and younger children can be a part of. If one child learns that the world needs differences, and that these differences make us more powerful as a whole, then I think the goal of My Memory Of Us is met. Learn from the past, or we are destined to repeat it.