11-11 - Memories Retold review: Bringing home the true horror of war
(PS4/XO/PC) ★★★★ Age: 16+
In a mark of the maturity of the medium, videogames have joined the centenary Armistice commemorations with this thoughtful and sober evocation of the horrors of the Great War.
Memories Retold does it not with bangs, or guns, or even killing, though death is never far away. Instead, it intertwines two deeply personal stories that transport the player 100 years into the past as the war rages across France. It's very unvideogamey for the most part - a bit slow-moving and over-earnest, to be honest.
But as it swaps between the stories of a Canadian photographer on the Allies side and a German soldier seeking his lost son on the other, it builds up a touching portrait of ordinary men on the ground, pawns in a greater conflict.
Elijah Woods and Sebastian Koch add a dab of Hollywood allure in the lead voice roles, but this is really an unglamorous war as only dying pointlessly in a muddy trench can be. The simplistic puzzles are there just to break up the walking between locations. The lack of player agency to affect the storyline until the final third is likely to annoy seasoned gamers. But perhaps they'll already have been put off by the impressionistic art style, which applies broad brush strokes to smudge every edge.
Yet the involvement of veteran animation studio Aardman should be enough to reassure sceptics that Memories Retold is worth experiencing for its emotional punch, and all without a shot fired.
The Shapeshifting Detective
(XO/PS4/PC/Switch) ★★★★ Age: 18+
Like an interactive Poirot mystery, this murder whodunnit plays out in video clips as you question a house full of weird guests about a strangled cellist. With high production values and decent performances (including that of delightfully named Irish actress Anarosa De Eizaguirre Butler as a tarot card reader), it becomes even more engaging as you gain the ability to inhabit the bodies of other characters to draw out the murderer.
The mask of plausibility slips a little as you occasionally resort to trying every question with every character to advance the investigation. But with a killer randomly chosen from the group at the beginning of each enjoyable playthrough, this is one murder worth repeating.