Past Memories Review
It isn’t often that a running game sets itself apart from the endless sea of running games in the App Store. Every developer with aspirations at fame and fortune have tried to create another Canabalt or Temple Run, but it is always to no avail. The latest addition to the heaving masses is a little title called Past Memories.
Black and white seems to be an artistic statement lately. Ever since Limbo hit the scene, every developer seems to have embraced a monochromatic palette. Using black and white as an aesthetic choice is only skin deep. When a game uses it within the theme and concept of a game, that’s where things become interesting.
Past Memories tries to capture the murky mystery of memories. It explains very little and leaves a lot of interpretation up to you. As your character makes their way through the murk, specters materialize and give chase. There are pitfalls, platforms, and strange items that let you swap between dimensions that banish any nightmare creatures that might be following. This makes for a very interesting experience as long as the gameplay doesn’t get in the way.
Its controls are more simple than its color palette. While there are two colors in the game, you only need one finger to play. One touch of the screen will send your character leaping into the air over monsters and gaps. If you leap rapidly in a row, your character slows to almost a crawl. This adds an interesting bit of strategy to the game when you’re being chased by monsters. Do you take the high road and risk slowing down and being caught, or do you risk going below and dealing with more obstacles and monsters?
Don’t mistake Past Memories for an endless runner because it has distinct levels, times you on your completion, and lets you know how many lives you lost making it to the finish. The design of the levels offer a number of different routes, and the monsters materialize out of nowhere to dog your steps. Each level has a slightly different design and music to go with it, making for some great atmosphere. But, it also made me think that each level was a different disconnected memory. Bad memories at that.
Sadly though, the gameplay just isn’t up to snuff. It can feel disconnected at times, which, for a running game, this is the kiss of death. The controls, speed of the enemies, and their placement don’t really add up to a coherent whole that offers variety and challenge. Although it tries for some interesting additions, like making your character slow down when ascending a ramp. Too bad there simply isn’t enough to make it engaging.
It doesn’t help that I ran into more than one glitch. At one point, I would respawn right over an enemy. The only way for me to continue playing was to force quit the app and reload it. Something like that really pulls you out of the experience.
Past Memories could be so much better than it is. The controls need to be tightened up and the enemies adjusted so that they aren’t just following in vain trying to catch up. Maybe have some of the flying monsters come around and swoop in from the front and loop around a couple times. Memories do tend to repeat themselves. I also think they could do with a bit more with the level designs. They feel a bit too sparse. Also, the spike pits and other traps are so small and subtle it can sometimes take trial and error to find out where they are. Making them a bit more obvious would help.
It is a shame that Past Memories isn’t all that much fun to play. It has some interesting ideas and design, but the gameplay stumbles along and falls. It isn’t quite devoured by the amorphous monsters, but it probably won’t earn a spot in your memory.