As Freya, you meet up with three of your friends to go on a ghost tour. A little reserved, they’re debating whether it’s going to be any good. While waiting for the bus, an apparent earthquake occurs, and the group shift to an unknown location. Soon after, the corpses start to appear.
With a promising premise, first impressions were not good. The pace at which Freya moves and the lack of things to do meant sticking with the game was starting to feel unlikely. Is it worth persevering with?
Retrace Memories Of Death PS4 Review
Waking in a cell, you find a corpse lying next to you with their throat ripped out, but because of the cute-ish visuals, it doesn’t look as morbid as it sounds. Not typical of a prison cell, the door is unlocked, and you exit your mediocre prison.
Before this scene begins, let’s jump back to the bus stop. You get the option to choose which friend you want to pair with. I went for Mia as she was the closest, and at the start of the game, we were in the cell together. It may be different for you.
Once we left, we clocked this giant cloaked creature walking up and down with a lantern. Thinking it would be no threat, we followed closely behind, only for Mia to be killed. Bugger. So does this mean I’ve fluffed it already? Fortunately, no.
The selling point of Retrace Memories Of Death is the multiple paths you take to save your friends, plus some bonus paths too. Think Groundhog Day, where you repeat the same day, only you can opt to save one friend and a time, unlocking new routes.
Once Freya realises she is also dead and in a Lost like limbo, she meets a prisoner named Claire and a deity of sorts called Matemna. It transpires that Freya can shift between time and theoretically undo what has happened in the past, but there appears to be a loop.
Before getting to this stage, there was a bit of wandering, and while you can pick up items and view them from the menu, you can’t actively select them to use with anything. Every item has its place, and you need to use it at the right time.
For this reason, I started to lose interest. There aren’t that many locations, and you can visit each one with the space of a minute or two. Still, I stuck with it and unlocked my first ending. However, these aren’t your traditional endings and, in fact, called Ends.
Each time you save a character or complete an arc in Retrace Memories Of Death, you get a brief title card to confirm you’ve completed that section, then return to the void where you can select your ‘spawn’ point and who you will save next.
This was when Retrace Memories Of Death got interesting. While you’ll encounter the same items each time, typically in the same location, the dialogue changes, and the story develops just a tiny bit more where you start to understand what’s happening.
In terms of narrative, this was the game’s appeal, and it plays a little like a visual novel in that you have dialogue sections where you can choose a response. Most of the time, this doesn’t affect the outcome, sometimes it does, but predominantly, the conversation is interesting enough that you’ll choose a response that feels right.
There’s no threat of death (despite the themes), and there is an abundance of save points which, quite frankly, felt pointless. I’d say there would only be two reasons for saving: 1) you’ve finished gaming for the day or 2) you’re saving near the end as you want both proper endings and the platinum.
While there’s no threat of dying, I did complete the same arc two – maybe three times and cocked it up. This was the second turning point where I was frustrated as it seemed that you had to do everything in a particular order to get all the Ends and endings. Once past this hurdle, the story is enjoyable once more.
At Death’s Door
The visuals for Retrace Memories Of Death are a little bit barren – especially the playing area. There isn’t much to interact with or things to look at in awe. Additionally, you can only move in four directions – no diagonals, but that’s not a deal-breaker.
It’s the characters then that we’re dealing with, and while they aren’t groundbreaking, they’re enjoyable, if a little predictable at times. Owen is the stereotype jock that can’t comprehend what’s going on, Lucas is the silent type with ‘a lot going on’, Mia was more of a tagger on for me, while Claire had the most depth and clearly troubled. You’re Freya. Surely you know yourself?
Retrace Memories Of Death is a short game as once you complete an End or two, you go through the same motions with a few adjustments. By the time you get to the ending section (no spoilers on that), the game takes a slight shift, offering a bit of closure along the way.
The Ends and multiple endings were interesting and clarified a few things for the narrative, and thankfully, it wasn’t a cliche. It took me a couple of hours to run through and complete the game, unlocking all the trophies in the process, and it’s not something I’ll come back to, but glad I played it.
Retrace Memories Of Death PS4 Review Summary
Short and sweet, once past the initial mechanics of these loops and endings, Retrace Memories Of Death opened up, and it was an interesting experience. The visual novel element was the biggest strength, with some nice illustrations and natural dialogue, except for Owen. That guy was a dick.