Back in 2015, a little pixel-heavy visual novel title managed to grab people's attention. By crossing LGBTQ+ themes with a strong dystopian atmosphere, plus a charming cast of memorable characters, 2064: Read Only Memory became an underground cult hit for many. Today, we are finally taking a little sneak peek at its sequel: Neurodiver.
Originally planned for a 2021 release, Neurodiver: Read Only Memories finally releases this year. Strongly influenced by late 80s futuristic PC-88 Japanese adventures, such as Hideo Kojima’s Snatcher, Neurodiver puts you in the role of ES88, a gifted esper.
By using her ESP powers, you’re able to wander into people's minds, retrieve memories and fix problems. In Chapter One of the game’s new demo, we had to track down the computer password of a technician who has forgotten it and didn’t write a note somewhere. To do this, ES88 dives deep into the technician’s unconscious to discover the forgotten login details.
In these memory deep-dives, Neurodiver switches from a classic visual novel exploration to point and click adventure mechanics. You will explore your surroundings, examine items, pick up those relevant and put them together to help the poor guy recover his precious password. That's where the titled Neurodiver comes in handy.
This weird yellow fish-like creature, which lives in a tank inside ES88's apartment, will connect to the minds of the people while allowing us to swim through them. Later, in Chapter Two, your abilities get more relevant as the story starts picks up the pace, putting ES88 on the tracks of a rogue esper who has been playing tricks with people's memories and has to be stopped.
Naturally, the main charm of Neurodiver, much like its predecessor, resides in its colorful cast of characters. In the demo, we were able to meet a few of them, such as the deranged robot L.U.C.Y. or the apparently strict and sober GATE, an android who seems to have developed some quite difficult to hide feelings for ES88. Perhaps, in the full game we will have a choice to see that relationship further develop.
While Neurodiver is not a direct sequel - or at least does not feature the same characters in the main story - to 2064, it does take place in the same universe so, along with nudges and references here and there and we are going to see, at least, some of the cast return in this sequel. But players of the original will feel immediately at home, with the mix of future cyberpunk and current pop culture references. They will be pleased to see what Neo San Francisco has been up to in the last few years.
While the main gameplay mechanics in Neurodiver revolve around "fixing" memories, especially those that the rogue esper has damaged, there doesn't seem to be any actual stake at play. It would be interesting to have a bit more of an edge. For example, a harder difficulty mode could have different ways to solve puzzles and limited time to solve them, otherwise ES88 has to make a quick get-out. So far, in the demo, Neurodiver seems to be sticking more to the classic adventure tropes of "let's click on everything to find items and solve puzzles"; perhaps the full game will surprise us in regards of player agency.
As a protagonist, from what I've seen so far, ES88 leans on the typical anime klutz rather than the typically noire-style leads seen in classic cyberpunk stories. When paired with the more strict GATE, the two balance out their different characters quite well. But, when alone and without a strong duo energy to work off on, ES88 may get a little tiring. The voice actress also does them no favors, as they seem to really put the pedal on the quirkiness.
But she does look incredibly charming even in the most over-exaggerated reactions, since the pixel art is, as expected, absolutely lovely. All the character portraits are fantastic, letting every character express fully their feelings in every moment. Another expected but pleasant factor, a fantastic synthwave chunky soundtrack by coda, a veteran artist of the genre, showcasing even in a short demo, an already impressive selection of funky/mellow sounds.
From what we've seen so far in the first two chapters of the demo, Neurodiver is shaping up to be a more than worthy follow-up to 2064: Read only memories. It should definitely bring back all the same flavors of the original and please the fans, but we will diving in for a full report when the game is released. Neurodiver will be out in Q3 2023, hitting Nintendo Switch, Xbox One & Series X|S, PlayStation 4 & 5, and PC via Steam and Epic Games Store.