Review: Bright Memory Is a (Short) Trip

Screenshot: Bright Memory

A new console generation means flashy graphics and questionable launch titles. PlayStation 5 has some great launch titles—Demon’s Souls automatically stands out, but even Astro’s Playroom manages to be a bright, fun title for the system. On the other hand, the Xbox Series X|S seems to be struggling to have any fun games to play beyond the recently released Call of Duty: Black Ops. Sadly, Bright Memory isn’t exactly a bright spot on the Series X|S’s launch lineup.

Bright Memory is a first person shooter where you play as a woman named Shelia—not Sheila—as she fights off terrorists, weird chimera creatures, and the undead on a floating island somewhere near the North Pole. Shelia has at her disposal an array of weaponry, including a pistol, shotgun, assault rifle, and a light blade—a melee weapon that allows Shelia to slash at her foes with deadly beams of light. I have to just say: this game is a trip, and not necessarily in a good way. If this were a bad movie, it would be ripe for riffing.

Screenshot: Bright Memory

Just to clear up any confusion: Bright Memory is incredibly short, incredibly strange, and not very good. The design decisions made were just baffling. Bright Memory was developed and designed by FYQD Studio, which is a one man team, and I would normally be praising the developer for doing such impressive work, but Bright Memory is just so uneven it’s wacky. In the hour or so it took me to play through the entire game I felt like I was on a roller coaster I never asked to get on. I mean, I enjoyed the ride, but I don’t know if I can recommend others try it out.

Bright Memory is very stylish—or at least, it tries to be. I’ve never played a first person shooter where your character will do something, and the camera will wipe around to see your own character’s reaction to it from an outside view. There is a lot of style, action, and exploding buildings—but zero substance, and really, zero clue as to what the hell is actually happening.  It feels like the FYQD Studio just took a bunch of ideas that were cool from other games, and stuck them into this Frankenstein’s monster of an experience.

Screenshot: Bright Memory

Within the first ten minutes of gameplay, I knew Bright Memory was something special—but not for the reasons the developer was hoping for, I’m sure. I found myself facing down a group of Carter’s men. I was pushed through a mysterious portal into a land that is supposed to be strange and unexplored. Yet somehow, my character immediately sounds like she knows exactly what’s happening, and I’m off fighting hollow knights and chimera creatures that could have been taken straight out of the Dark Souls series. In fact, there’s even a cheeky (and not so hidden) Easter egg bonfire you can light.

It’s like FYQD wanted to make a first person Dark Souls meets first person shooter, and it works to a degree. But since Bright Memory’s protagonist has regenerating health ala’ Call of Duty the pressure of health attrition doesn’t exist, and if you stay mobile, you can easily live. There are no health pick-ups, or even ammo pick-ups. Strangely, there are no pick-ups at all except for the occasional collectible, like something you’d get from Uncharted or similar games—ancient relics that just add flavor.

Screenshot: Bright Memory

Bright Memory would have been well-served by some better pacing. As it is right now, it’s a super quick experience of fighting, with about two puzzles, culminating in a boss fight. The puzzles aren’t very difficult, either—in fact, one of them requires nothing more than to pull a couple of levers after jumping on a few platforms.

Bright Memory feels like a demo for a larger game. If the quality of Bright Memory is any indication of the full product, I don’t think I want to play it. But if the full game is as pants-on-head crazy as this one was, I might be convinced otherwise. If you want to play this game, play it as a spectacle. It’s somewhat fun, but its pacing and storytelling just can’t be emulated—it’s its own brand of so-bad-it’s-good type of game development, and that’s something special.

Bright Memory is out now for Xbox Series X|S and Windows.




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