Bright Memory is a special kind of launch title on Xbox Series X, and the first of which I am reviewing on the newly christened system. To enter a new generation without true, powerful exclusives like Halo was quite the disappointment, but that does not mean there isn’t a robust amount of games to break the console in with. Bright Memory is one of those games, ringing in at less than $10 USD and offering Series X/S enhancements at a budget friendly price. So what is the deal with that? This is an Xbox exclusive, only to be found elsewhere on PC, and the upcoming sequel/continuation Bright Memory: Infinite, is going to be an exclusive as well. Bright Memory serves as your appetizer to what will hopefully be a fully realized, ironed out game. For what it is worth, coming from a one man development team, Bright Memory is impressive. That impressiveness, however, is bogged down by an incoherent narrative and plenty of technical issues while still remaining decently fun to play.
I am not even going to fully attempt to explain what is going on story wise, as I am not even sure that developer FYQD studio knows. The best way to describe this game as a whole is that it mirrors the unique feeling of playing an arcade shooter of the SEGA golden age. It is nonsensical, full of flair and bad acting, and lets you shoot a lot of things almost the entire time. You play as Shelia, an agent of some sorts, who gets drawn through an odd portal and cast somewhere where she begins to fight undead monsters, dragons, and more without ever thinking much of it, with hints at treasures and other characters scattered about but never quite connecting to one and other. This lack of connection is furthered by the fact that, within your 30-45 minutes play through, Shelia gets knocked out multiple times as an excuse to transition to the next scene, failing to get captured or injured on each occasion. Ideally, Infinite will serve better as a full title, so it is easy to ignore the story and focus on the core gameplay.
If you caught that play through time mention in the last bit, you will now know that this is an incredibly short game. Again, akin to an arcade shooter. This serves as a demo, or proof of concept, for the full project. Within this time frame you will face two bosses, tackle two puzzles, and do some shooting and light platforming along the way. The best part about the play time is it makes it really easy to run back through it multiple times with a better grip on the gameplay. The action is relatively fast paced, with a Doom-like feel, while the mystery and adventure seeking Shelia rings in somewhat more akin to Tomb Raider. Not a bad combo if you ask me. You get your basic loadout of weapons including an assault rifle, a shotgun, and a pistol. Top that off with a cyber sword and a slew of tech savvy abilities and you have got yourself a bona-fide, anime-ish femme fatal. Shelia can dodge in a flash, use an electric whip of sorts to jump towards enemies or over gaps, use an EMP to kill or suspend enemies in midair, and more. New abilities and upgraded abilities can be earned through the collection of experience points gained via kills, which can diversify your play style nicely. I found myself loving the area of effective ability which made a dome of electricity surround a rather wide area. This made controlling large crowds a breeze, and changed my approach to boss fights in my second go around.
Guns handle decently enough to help control a firefight, but tying your shots in with your abilities at a steady pace is a sure fire way to come out of the battle alive. Whether you catch a boss’s pattern and know the right time to dodge an attack, or you blast someone into the air and keep them there with your EMP blast, there is a decent amount of ways to string together your attacks. I liked spamming sword attacks at bosses, hammering out as many button presses as I could within the short period you get to actually use the sword upon activation. While the fluidity sometimes works really well in combat, there is plenty of technical issues to hinder that experience to the degree.
Combat wise, there are a few annoying issues that don’t hurt the gameplay entirely but do prevent it from feeling like a cleaner experience. For one, there is a live HUD on your weapons indicating ammo and some other aesthetically pleasing futuristic touches, but I caught those randomly spinning around the guns from time to time. Not sure if this was intentional or not, but it did not look like it should have been. There is also a scoring feature, which grades you during battles in a similar matter to the Devil May Cry series, but I found that occasionally completely disappearing from fights, making it hard to track how well I was doing. Outside of combat, there are still a fair share of issues. The most major of these is the constant screen tearing, which plagues your time with the game with annoying lines being cast across the screen. I did notice any frame rate staggers or anything like that, so it is just more of a visual annoyance than anything. There are also lots of PC aspects that did not get console-proofed, like menu navigation being done with a mouse pointer and adjustments of settings still being controlled by that pointer with sliders, which is a pain. Outside of that, there are just lots of polish issues, like on screen HUD elements not fading away for cutscenes, achievements tracking and unlocking at random times, and being able to trigger some abilities within cutscenes.
While not everything looks perfect, the game is generally great looking, taking advantage of the Series X in terms of lighting and particle effects. When you get in areas with reflected surfaces, sparks and energy, or changes in terrain, things look exceptional. There is a sleek, adventurous feel to the graphics that fit the bill for what the game is trying to put together, even if the human characters somewhat detract from that by looking and sounding emotionless. Though the voice acting could be better, and some of the sound design look footsteps could use some reworking, I thought the Bright Memory had a great soundtrack for what it was worth. The title track was awesome, and that set the stage for what was to come.
For the roughly 30 minutes of true gameplay, Bright Memory is not a bad experience. It is not overly good, either, but does show a hopeful promise for what Bright Memory: Infinite will ideally deliver. If you can look past the technical issue and somewhat goofy set up of a story, there is a few playthroughs here for you to try out some flashy visuals on your new generation of Xbox consoles for a budget friendly price. Just do not go into this expecting a full experience, as you will have to wait for that a bit longer. I enjoyed blazing through my second playthrough much more, knowing that I could race the clock and go for the best grade possible with my newfound abilities. If that sounds appealing enough to you, give this a shot, and stick around for the eventual, hopefully ironed out sequel.
*Note: A copy of the title was provided for the purposes of the review
FINAL SCORE: 6/10
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