The Latin expression “Memento mori” stipulates that people are mortals and that all of us are going to meet our end sooner or later. Legend says that the Romans used it to tell victorious generals that they are not infallible and later it defined the works of art which underlined the ephemeral human existence.
If it’s properly used, the combination of art, mysteries and an adventure game can’t fail. And the adventure Memento Mori, although it seems inspired from a novel signed by Dan Brown, it’s far from being just a simple copy. But it does have the same tendency to place enigmas in an artistic-religious environment full of conspiracies.
A trip to the museum
With the premise that three important paintings have been stolen from the Hermitage Museum in Sankt Petersburg, the story starts with small, but firm steps. And after watching a very well crafted intro movie, we’ll meet Lara (short for Larisa Svetlova) in her apartment in Lyon.
There she is contacted by colonel Ostankovic (her former boss from Interpol), who is investigating behind closed doors this maximum priority case at the museum. As the theft itself is an unusual one (the paintings were replaced by fakes), he asks Lara to send her old friend Max to Petersburg, an expert in almost every aspect of art (read “former forger”).
After Max gets there, we’ll control both characters, either in France or in Russia, in a race against time to discovering the thief. However, the story is going to have some twists from time to time and the main objective will shift from catching said thief to uncovering a conspiracy.
After a few minutes spent in its company, the game reveals its most notable problem: the pacing. The way the animations are rendered on screen, the way Lara or Max make a simple action or even their movement speed, it all points out to something that’s the complete opposite of the rush that should come naturally in a case like this. And it’s extremely irritating to see that everything occurs at a snail’s speed even if colonel Ostankovic wants you to solve the case as quickly as possible so that he doesn’t have to give explanations to the press.
It’s true that the adventure genre is by definition a slow, somewhat “elderly’ one, where patience is a must. And I’m not saying that it shouldn’t be eliminated, but only seen to that some things are accelerated, given the fact that they’re a big loss of time in the current situation. For example, how Lara picks up the phone from the table, how she types or opens a door, some mini cut-scenes like the elevator at Lara’s office or some dialogues.
If the producers had marched on the idea in Angels and Demons, where there was no time to waste, the game would have been much more engaging. Some could say that it would be somewhat awkward if things were accelerated to much, that it wouldn’t be an adventure anymore. But if we look up the definition of an adventure game, where does it say that is has to be in slow motion?
A 3D adventure
But no matter how slow the action flows, we can’t say that there’s no decent gameplay to look upon. There are a lot of items, combinations and actions which can be used or carried out by the protagonists. The issue is that many of them are repetitive, or based only trial and error rather than on a logic of their own. The only upside is that least this applies only to what our heroes try to solve from a third-person perspective. That’s because Memento Mori also comes with better, first-person puzzles.
Unlike many adventure games that sport 2D graphics or 2D with 3D elements, Memento Mori is entirely 3D, thus improving the immersion. This allowed the designers to implement complete analysis of some objects could, which in turn allowed puzzles to be more interesting that the classic ones based only on two dimensions. Throughout the game we’ll go through many detailed analyses of works of art or some complicated mechanisms, moments when the first-person camera comes into action and when you feel like a detective, with your sense of observation actually being used for something.
Following the current “trend”, the puzzles aren’t too difficult, but there are some a bit above the norm. To those that don’t have much time available or for the newcomers to the adventure genre, Memento Mori will be a great game to begin with, but I don’t think the veterans will appreciate the fact that “trial & error” can be used too many times in solving puzzles.