Rose Hawkins — an inspector for Massachusetts’ Juvenile Division — had been investigating a case involving a missing girl named Eden, a search that would eventually lead her to an abandoned asylum. Although she’s currently having quite a bit of trouble remembering how the investigation went, Rose definitely knows that — upon reaching the asylum — she was shot by a mysterious man. Unsure of how she survived, she wakes up in a bizarre place filled with mannequins locked behind bars — posed as if they’re fighting to escape — and begins discovering recordings specifically left for her on ancient tape reels.
These messages inform Rose that she’s currently in a place where talking is impossible, which is why the enigmatic person leaving the messages — named Noah — prepared these messages for her to find upon waking up. While exploring this odd realm, Rose discovers newspaper articles that remind her how of everyone at the New Vineyard Asylum, the place she was previously investigating, were all simply found dead over ten years ago. Other books scattered around this strange place — where red velvet curtains abound all over — speak of investigations upon the matter of parapsychology, along with recordings from patients begging to ‘please not be taken back there.’
Eventually — after even more exploring, and finding even more messages from this Noah person — Rose eventually finds Noah in a room eating pie, surrounded all over by mannequins meticulously posed either in positions of prostration or wanton decadence. Noah proclaims that she can help Rose find the missing girl — Eden — but in return she must first help out with a task: apparently a nurse named Dorothy Simmons is trapped in the asylum, and Noah pledges to help Rose if she manages to find and set the nurse free. After implicitly agreeing to help Noah find this Dorothy Simmons – since she can’t do so verbally — Rose suddenly finds herself back in the real world, stuck inside a dilapidated mannequin-filled asylum that supposedly was abandoned more than an entire decade ago.
Now once more with the ability to speak — yet no one around capable of listening — Rose must explore the ruined building in search of the nurse Dorothy Simmons, along the way discovering remnant notes that slowly piece together an image of what happened here. No longer having the gun she initially brought along when she first began exploring the New Vineyard Asylum, Rose quickly finds a crowbar — that someone has curiously left lodged in the head of a sprawled out mannequin — and decides to bring it along with her. Although Rose was probably chiefly concerned with stumbling across the man whom shot her again, she quickly discovers that she’s far less alone in this asylum — than previously thought — when the mannequins begin coming to life and lurching towards her.
Oh, and it isn’t very encouraging when moments back into reality you discover Dorothy’s body — dead and chained down next to a bloody pentagram — along with a recording suggesting she attempted to blackmail someone here. Apparently she accused one of the asylum’s doctors of making six of her patients disappear, proclaiming he disposed of the evidence proving how his parapsychology studies were yielding no fruit whatsoever. Amazingly — for a place that was abandoned more than a decade ago — the body of Dorothy seems to be in rather good shape, just how exactly does this Noah person — whom you met in that realm where speaking was impossible — plan for you to free her?
From here you’ll have to gather supplies — use limited resources wisely — and above all be quick with your investigations, for Rose will be left in the utter dark — unable to make out anything at all — when her precious flashlight finally runs out of its valuable power. Although charging stations exist where the flashlight’s energy may be freely restored without consequence, these precious places are few and far between (and that they still have power is yet another enigma, seeing as how this place was abandoned long ago). Lastly, don’t allow yourself to assume in this decaying old building — filled to the gills with mannequins, and evidence of macabre parapsychology research — that you’ll always be able to safely return to the same power station you were previously using.
Thus goes the rather lofty premise to Forgotten Memories (out now, $5.99), Psychose Interactive’s attempts to bring a proper classical survival-horror experience to mobile users everywhere. A game whose development endured for a whopping six years — a rare feat in the world of mobile gaming — Forgotten Memories aims to bring back the game play tropes of nineties classics such as: Resident Evil, Silent Hill, and Alone in the Dark. In this regard I must happily proclaim that Psychose Interactive has succeeded with flying colors, yet — for reasons I’ll be covering further down — their otherwise brilliant game is sadly somewhat mismatched with the mobile gaming market.
The game controls well enough: with the screen’s left hand side serving as a motion-control virtual-analog joystick, and the screen’s right hand side serving as camera control (with your flashlight always being pointed in the direction of the camera). Similar to Resident Evil before it, moving left or right won’t rotate Rose’s facing direction — only the camera controls themself may ever do that — and instead will order her to strafe sideways. The controls were perfectly functional in my opinion, and did a nice job of addressing the difficulties presented by having 3D movement — as witnessed from an over the shoulder perspective — on a touch-based mobile device.
At the top of the screen is a gauge showing how much battery life is remaining in your flashlight, and is also used to freely turn your flash on or off whenever you touch it. Although it’s certainly far easier for Rose to see where she’s going whenever the flashlight is on, you furthermore may only interact with various objects of interest whenever your surroundings are well lit (either from overhead lighting, or from yourself). These objects of interest may then be used by tapping on the middle of the screen, which will then either prompt Rose to comment on what she’s seeing — instruct Rose to read the document in front of her — or sometimes have Rose grab whenever she’s standing next to.
Finally — on the screen’s right hand side — are two buttons: a cross-hair that switches Rose between exploration and combat mode, and another that switches Rose between walking and running. When in combat mode tapping the screen will cause her to attack rather than investigate objects, and — just like old school survival horror games — combat is deliberately awkward in order to make fighting against enemies an awkward proposition. Meanwhile, run mode causes Rose to move around far faster (which is useful for dodging enemies); yet lots of running — or even attacking — will eventually cause her to fatigue and slow down (which will either recover slowly all on its own, or by using adrenaline shots).
Unfortunately, Psychose Interactive’s determination to perfectly replicate the feeling of early survival horror games has been carried all the way down to Forgotten Memories’ saving mechanic. Do you remember how early Resident Evil games wouldn’t let you save unless you brought an ink ribbon over to a typewriter, in order to heighten tension by making the act of saving itself a valuable resource? There is a similar mechanic here where you need to bring a floppy disk over to one of the asylum’s computers — which are oddly still running — in order to save, which quickly becomes an issue on mobile devices.
Now I’m not here to knock the mechanics of classical survival horror experiences, and genuinely commend Psychose Interactive for attempting to perfectly recreate a genre that has otherwise eroded into unrecognizability. With both the Resident Evil and Alone in the Dark series having degraded into twitch action games, and Konami probably giving up on the Silent Hill series entirely, a game like this is actually something I’m glad to see. While many complained about the various factors that used to make games like Resident Evil and Alone in the Dark more awkward to play than other games, it was these various things — and not the occasional jump scares — that always kept players on their toes.
Sure those jump scares might have elicited an occasional jolt from you, but it was the knowledge that you were otherwise powerless — fighting against monsters you were ill equipped to defeat — that guaranteed players were always primed for these moments. Consider this similar to how the real tension within Five Nights at Freddy’s (our review) came not from the animatronics jumping out at you, but the creeping realization that your limited resources — with which to combat them — were constantly being drained away. Making the act of saving a precious resource — not to be squandered — only further helped older games heighten this over all tension, and additionally ensured that players couldn’t simply utilize non-stop saving to negate away ever having to suffer any consequences.
That said, those classical games ran on fully fledged consoles/PCs — rather than modern mobile devices — and this in turn is where my problem with Forgotten Memories’ saving system truly lies. Mobile gaming is already inherently about filling up short bursts of time, whereas Forgotten Memories limited-resource saving system is about punishing players for leaving the game without having first made significant accomplishments. Therefore any play session under thirty minutes long — unless you happen to not only have a guide on hand, but already know what you’re doing as well — might as well be timed chucked straight down the drain.
Further exacerbating this is that Forgotten Memories is an extremely demanding game for iOS devices to run, and Psychose Interactive themselves even recommend that you not only close all other programs – but also reboot the device – before launching the app. Should anyone call you while you’re playing — or you be forced to set down your device long enough for it put itself to sleep — you’ll find that Forgotten Memories has crashed by the time you return, meaning that every game session must remain utterly uninterrupted. Additionally not helping this any is that Forgotten Memories — being as demanding as it is — will just shred straight through your battery life, which is really bad when your game is entirely structured around having saves treated as a precious resource.
The fact is that I actually deeply enjoyed my time with Forgotten Memories, and would have no qualms giving this game a far higher recommendation if Psychose Interactive were to do something to make the experience far more palatable on mobile devices. Personally, I would suggest they add the ability to create temporary saves files that can be used anywhere — but effectively force you to exit afterwards — thus allowing people to leave the game when they need to, and then have this save file be deleted after you return. The developer’s current concession of adding an easy mode — with a greater abundance of resources — is a poor solution for those seeking a true survival horror experience, and as such you’d presently be better off waiting for this app on the PC — Wii U — or PS Vita.
Anyways — game play mechanics aside, whether good or bad — it’s finally time for me to discuss how Forgotten Memories looks, and — in this regard — to say that this game is unparalleled in appearance would possibly be something of an actual understatement. Those screenshots you’ve seen littering this review are all very real, representing exactly how Forgotten Memories genuinely appears — running in 100% full real-time 3D (rather than having any pre-rendered backdrops) — all upon a wide range of current iOS devices. What’s even more impressive are the various effects — which can really only be appreciated in motion — such as: everything graying and blurring out as you take damage, the real time shadows cast about by your flashlight, or the high-range dynamic lighting.
Although it’s probably obvious by this point, but — ignoring how the game’s save system doesn’t mesh well with iOS devices — I believe that Forgotten Memories does a superb job at working as an homage to early survival horror games (yet with modern graphics). The New Vineyard Asylum is undeniably creepy pretty much always — yet genuinely fascinating to explore at the same time — and the bizarre other realm, despite being a far more brightly lit and well kept place, is even more unsettling than the dilapidated asylum. You are furthermore faced with a profoundly disturbing — yet utterly intriguing- – mystery to slowly unravel that will actively keep you wanting to push further at all junctures, and all of this is accompanied by competent professional voice acting.
Now admittedly — when all is said and done — one could simply chose to ignore the aforementioned saving faults, and instead focus entirely upon the deep and unnerving mystery experience that Forgotten Memories provides (it’s certainly worth the effort). The chief problem here is that once you’ve decided block out roughly forty minutes, or more, at your home — and arranged it so that there will be no interruptions — there are probably far better platforms capable of running this available for you to choose from. Worse yet, none of these alternative upcoming platforms — such as the PC, Wii U, or PS Vita — will feature the memory-based instability issues that your mobile device will sadly be suffering, meaning no crashes due to phone calls or having to walk away for a minute.
iFanzine Verdict: Psychose Interactive’s Forgotten Memories is a well-honed love letter to the various survival horror games released back during the nineties, presenting player with a compelling — yet oppressive — mystery to slowly piece together. Although the game looks fantastic — and plays wonderfully — Psychose Interactive’s dedication to flawlessly recreating this defunct genre has led to the inclusion of limited resource based saving, which is a troublesome problem for a mobile based release. Being effectively forbidden to casually save your progress — at least if you want to win — has sadly limited the playability of Forgotten Memories from a mobile perspective, although the app will soon be arriving on other far more optimum platforms as well. Ultimately you could choose to deal with the game’s save system — and the experience certainly does warrant this — but it’ll never be an ideal mobile experience, yet the game’s playability could be massively enhanced if temporary save files are ever added.