Review | Bright Memory
Getting into the games industry has become increasingly easier in recent years. Indie games are practically a mainstream genre at this point, and it often puts a spotlight on new talent. Take Zeng “FYQD” Xian Cheng for example, a solo developer working with Unreal Engine 4. With the tools at his disposal, he created Bright Memory in his spare time. After some time in early access and full releases, the game is now available on Xbox Series S | X. While it’s essentially a teaser for the upcoming full remake/expansion Bright Memory: Infinite, there’s still something to appreciate here.
Bright Memory stars protagonist Shelia, basically a super soldier that has been conditioned for combat since an early age. Working for the Science Research Organization, she works with her ally Wake to stop the militant SAI from uncovering an ancient artifact. After SAI infiltrates an SRO research facility, an unstable teleporter takes Shelia and a team of SAI soldiers, including their leader Carter, to a floating island near the North Pole. Shelia must use her special skills to battle monsters and undead warriors to survive this new territory. The story isn’t much of a highlight, mostly due to simplicity, but also because it’s not complete.
While the story might not be a selling point, the gameplay actually has some pretty solid concepts. Bright Memory is a first person shooter that combines gunplay with with Devil May Cry style combo action. Shelia can do short teleport dashes and even launch EMPs to launch enemies in the air. As you progress through the game, you’ll earn experience to spend on even more new abilities. This includes skills like lightning bursts, energy forcefields, slowing down time, and even temporary power boosts. As you fight enemies, a combo meter will appear, ranking from C to SSS ranks. Maintaining combos keep your ranks high, and encourages diverse combat skills.
While the concept is pretty solid, Bright Memory’s issue lies in the execution. The gunplay works fine enough, but the skills take a lot of practice to get used to them. Part of this is in the controls while another part comes from a lack of clear explanation. This might be in part due to the translation to an Xbox controller, but pulling off certain skills require pushing buttons multiple times or other button combinations. As for the explanation, this is likely due to a language barrier for translation, though it seems publisher Playism helped to make it more accessible than the original product. It’s confusing at first, but over time, you’ll eventually get used to the skills and understand them. Unfortunately, it takes multiple playthroughs.
This brings us to another issue with the game. Bright Memory is basically a short half-hour demo for what’s to come. Due to being so short, the game makes you play through it three times to get the full experience. While there isn’t any additional content, the idea is that you’ll unlock all the skills by the third playthrough. It helps to master the gameplay for your third outing, but it makes things a bit repetitive. To add insult to injury, you also can’t skip cutscenes. Thankfully, the short length makes this requirement easier to digest, and for achievement hunters, this is a pretty easy 1000 gamer score.
Getting to the presentation, this is definitely a mixed bag. The UI is a bit cluttered, both in the skill icons and the shooting reticle. Menus are also slow to navigate and difficult to use for acquiring new skills. Interestingly enough, the music is pretty solid, though it’s hard to give recognition considering it’s royalty free music. As for the voice acting, Hannah Grace does alright as Shelia, though her performance isn’t incredibly believable. Jack Merluzzi, the voice of Zero in Mega Man X7, finds some redemption as Carter, getting a role that’s much more suited to his vocal tone. As for his acting, it’s an improvement, but it’s still lacking for the few lines he has.
When it comes to the graphics, the environments and creature design are pretty impressive. The only problem is the mix of sci-fi and medieval fantasy elements that tend to clash. One moment, it’s Unreal Tournament, the next, it’s Dark Souls. Something about this lack of identity feels a bit jarring, though this may change in Bright Memory: Infinite. While most things look fine enough for a single developer, there are some problems with human faces. Shelia and Carter are the only ones in the game, so they’re in the minority, but their facial animation is a bit mediocre and their eyes don’t look very good. Despite this, considering the circumstances, the overall graphics are good enough for the experience.
While Bright Memory isn’t going to win any awards, it’s still a pretty commendable effort from FYQD. The trailer for the remake looks promising, as it seems to already address some of the issues in the original game. Looks can be deceiving, but we’ll still keep an eye on Infinite to see if it can change our minds. As for this entry, it’s not a terrible experience for $8, but it’s not exactly one we recommend. If you’re looking for some easy achievements, then this will take you a little over an hour. Otherwise, it might be best to see how the full experience in the much more ambitious remake goes.
Final Score: 6 out of 10