Have you ever had that dream where you are searching for something, and no matter how close you get to the item it just slips out of your reach? Or the one where the world slowly fades away as you try to overcome its many obstacles? If you have, then Emma: Lost in Memories will feel very familiar to you. Developed by Sandbloom Studio and JanduSoft S.L, and published by Sandbloom Studio and EastAsiaSoft, this 2D platform puzzle game will have you scratching your head and screaming in frustration while you search for the exit, and gather the lost feathers on the way.
Emma: Lost in Memories asks you to control the female protagonist Emma. You must travel from level to level in this dreamlike world, attempting to catch an elusive owl who believes this all to be a game. On each stage the bird loses a purple feather, and you must overcome numerous obstacles to collect the item, and then head towards the warm yellow light of the exit. It all sounds pretty straightforward, right? Well, it’s not! The brilliance of this title is the simple nature of the task at hand. Your character has limited movement options available, and anything that you touch in passing starts to fade away. You must work out the correct path to take, and then perform the exact moves to complete all actions before the world disappears, and you fall to your death.
The gameplay takes place over 50 stages, which is separated into 5 different worlds; Hills, Mountains, Forest, Caves, and finally the Return. Once, or if you manage to complete all of those, an additional mode becomes available called the memory chest, this is broken down into 3 levels of difficulties, and continues in the same vein as the original portion of the game. As you would imagine, the title has a progressively increasing difficulty. As you move onwards, you must combine numerous moves in order to win. The obstacles that you encounter start to vary, you will note that spikes, and traps are added, and different surfaces fade at different times, all of a sudden you have to consider a number of different elements in order to succeed. I’ve played some exceptionally challenging games in my time, but Emma: LiM really is up there with the best of them. The requirement to be able to plan 15 steps ahead, and then be pinpoint accurate in your delivery is extremely tough to say the least. Other than being frustrating as hell, it’s oddly addictive, I spent nearly 1 hour on one stage as I was determined to complete it. I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult the end stages are, and I fear I’ll never find out, as quite frankly I’m terrible at it.
The three moves that are available to Emma are: a slide which powers her underneath spikes and through small gaps, a double jump that enables her to leap large gaps, and finally a wall climb that ensures that you have the ability to reach the highest points available. I found that some of the special moves were missing in certain levels, and it was down to trial and error to discover which were available to be used. When you first observe a level you may be confused as to how to solve it. Once you’ve touched platforms a new path will appear, and at times solving a puzzle was down to a bit of luck, as well as a lot of planning and judgement. I liked this element of the game, there were a number of times where I was stuck, desperately trying any combination of wall jumps and climbing to reach the end goal. An accidental slide cleared a path, and all of a sudden a eureka moment, the solution was now obvious.
You will be greeted with a distinctive hand drawn style, the vibrancy of the colours, and the striking lines help to emphasise the surreal nature of the title. The way in which the walls and platforms fade away represent the fear that memories can fade, and if you fail to act quickly you can disappear with them. Played out in a side on 2D perspective, all the action takes place on one fixed screen. With the whole stage presented in front of you, it’s easy to create a plan to complete the level. This helps to lull you into a false sense of security. But very rarely does it play out as you hope.
To complement the visual dreamlike aspect of the game, a soft musical score accompanies you throughout. The audio doesn’t drive the pace, and rarely changes no matter what is happening. There is no spoken narrative, and any words that are required appear in text form. There are no sound effects, and this could put a number of gamers off. I personally liked the basic approach, it created a calming effect which was helpful as most of the action was infuriating.
An extremely straightforward concept is matched up with an easy to master control setup. Use any of the; X, Y, B, or A buttons to perform tasks, and the left analogue stick to slide and climb. I found that the climb function was extremely slow to react, this caused me to die unnecessarily on a number of occasions. Other than this issue, actions were easy to complete, and you could spend your time concentrating on completing each step of your plan.
To finish the main game is challenging, but not impossible. I was stuck as I attempted to gather all of the feathers as I went along. For the completionist, this will be one heck of a trial. You will have to have top notch reflexes and a saintly like patience. If you attempt to just finish this, then you will be looking at around 4 to 5 hours, I dread to think how much longer it will take you to collect all of the collectables. For all platform titles, the aim is to drive your player base to think just one more try, and Emma: Lost in Memories has this feeling in abundance. Each level is short, and though death is guaranteed, the reload speed is so short, that you’ll be back into the action in no time. If you plan on obtaining a full achievement list, then you will have your work cut out for you. A fair few will be earned through natural progression, but the hardest ones are reserved for the most determined of players. If you happen to unlock them, I doff my cap to you, well I would if I was wearing a cap, so instead, you will just have to accept a gentle round of applause.
A rather unusual and unique take on the platform/puzzle genre. This colourful surreal title will have you cursing your luck, while you desperately try to solve an ever changing landscape. Though it won’t be to everyone’s taste, the hardcore fans of the genre will enjoy it most of all, but I think it offers enough to be contemplated by players of all skill sets. I enjoyed my dreamy experience, and the challenge that was presented before me, would I recommend that you try this? I really would. It’s great value for money, and as each level is so short, it can be played on a casual basis. Grab those feathers, and try to keep hold of those memories as they slowly fade from sight.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Emma: Lost in Memories Review
Gameplay - 6/10
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 7/10
Replay Value - 7/10
Emma follows an owl and enters a dreamlike world. She must complete each stage before time gets away from her, and her memories begin to fade.
- Striking artistic style.
- Calm and relevant audio.
- Simple control system.
- Short levels allow for a casual gaming experience.
- Unusual take on the platform/puzzle genre.
- Collecting all the feathers may be too challenging for the ordinary player.
- Climbing function is slow to react.
- Stages can be quite frustrating to complete.