As a rather big fan of ambient music and experimental composition I was delighted by the game Remembering, which delivered both exquisitely. Unfortunately I feel it suffers from some key design flaws which actually run counter to its advertised goal. On their main site the creators state,
Remembering is a game that leaves room for the player. By building a world based on sound instead of visuals we’ve created a place that relies on interpretation. It offers the chance to perceive it in a personal way.
This is not what I experienced. Yes, the game had a great soundscape, but it also relied on visuals and was not open to exploration.
I actually had to play the game twice. The first time I just wandered on the first level and ended up getting horrendously lost with no idea how to get to another soundscape. I was stuck in a monotonous world. I eventually got frustrated and restarted the game. This time I noticed that using the “action button” immediately revealed a dot in the distance to orient myself towards. This discovery then led me down a linear path of amazing soundscapes. The world was built on abstract visuals and experimental audio, and the path to progress was always very visual.
It also wasn’t really a world to explore. As you wander the sounds and visuals don’t at all change unless you follow the path designed for you. Now, this may have been the intent of the game, but it proved problematic on the first level where everything looks the same, and the only indicator of where you should go is a dot that appears when you press the action button and are oriented in the right direction. If you want to enjoy listening you might as well just stop moving (which I did, and it was great) since the soundscape doesn’t change unless you make progress, but then the sound also changes drastically. Eventually exploration isn’t even a possibility as you can’t actually move unless you follow the path. The “puzzles” you are required to solve are also extremely visual. Sound may change as you solve them, but the methods for solution are all based on sight.
Unfortunately it now sounds like I don’t like the game, which is very much not the case. I think it has been presented incorrectly as a game that promotes exploration and sound-focused environments, where it instead is a linear game that strongly relies on visuals. But if I don’t let my expectations get in the way, it is a beautiful experience. There is discovery to be had in the game as most of the level transitions are different from each other, and it is a sort of puzzle of discovery to figure out the key to the transition. Even better is the fact that the methods of transition are often very organic as they are rooted in the parts of the environment that draw your attention and curiosity. There are also times where you will choose to stop, because continuing to play will shorten your experience, and you just want to see and hear it for a little while longer.
In the end I both agree and disagree with myself as the tagline, “Remembering is a poetic exploration game driven by sound.” is kind of true. Your exploration is less about wandering aimlessly, and more about wanting to find out what the next land/soundscape is like, and thus you are exploring and your motivation is driven by sound. The creators are just underselling their abstract visuals. I wholeheartedly recommend that you give Remembering a chance. Though I also warn against watching the advertisement video on their main page. Because of the game’s brevity and how focused its rewards are on novelty I think the video is too revealing.