PEGBRJE: Memoir En Code Reissue and Pixel Session Vol. 1
We getting EXPERIMENTAL
Memoir En Code Reissue is the remastered version of the same name by Alex Camilleri, an Italian game dev who did this project solo as an autobiography. Yes, this game is an experimental narrative experience, detailing bits and pieces of Alex’s life through different interactive games structured similarly to a record. With only simple buttons to work with, players will navigate through these different stories to learn of the events being told, while slowly uncovering the ‘hidden’ secrets within.
The most obvious aspect of Memoir En Code is its minigames and the story they are each telling (we’ll cover the musical aspect later) to the player. Each chapter/song/track begins with a title, and then starts straight into what it exactly is trying to say without really saying anything. The opening is called Pieces, and simply contains a bunch of different objects on a desk that players can interact with while getting a general understanding of Alex and his workspace. Each section afterward details different parts of his life, from a minigame about attempting to study in an Italian household to simply lounging about on a beach in Sicily. Each part is gamifying how it is being remembered or reflected upon in a way that is easy to convey the emotional weight that Alex carries with each event, from the frustration of studying in an Italian household to the feelings of utter boredom whilst doing nothing on a beach for what feels like an eternity. We as players don’t know all the details, but we do know that not getting a good score on a test is upsetting because we couldn’t find the optimal place for our little cube to study thanks to loud music and nagging family members. The big standout chapter in this regard, at least for me, was Otoloop mostly due to my own previous complex about the exact same problem: my big ears. Thankfully I’ve sort of gotten over it (thanks to just, wearing toques all the time), but the endless looping of unease after a haircut even when nobody truly cared was something that plagued me for years. I never thought a simple grouping of eyeballs would so easily convey that feeling.
What makes Memoir En Code so much more interesting to me is the record stylized structure that makes up the entire game. Without going into too much detail of each track for fear of spoiling too much, each track that follows takes the album in a slightly different direction whilst systematically keeping a thread of familiarity outside of the general theme. Tracks don’t necessarily follow time linearly — instead, they are placed with a focus on how artists will create music records with ebs and flows. The intro of Pieces sets the tone in terms of the music that accompanies it, but also the visuals set the stage to examine the entirety of a singular life summarized by pictures and items on a desk. What follows next is a somber piece of longing for change yet hopeful it may occur (although this is where the altering endings part kicks in to give more agency) followed by a quirky section to immediately follow up the ending of the second track as a continuation. It creates a story within itself, outside of the narration of Alex’s life by telling a story in the context of the events that come before and after what is told. The story could be told in ‘order’, but I feel as if it would lose a lot of the tension that makes music albums so enthralling to listen to.
The reissue contains remastered art and the addition of the final track, Lei Disse. I won’t spoil any of it, not even the setting nor the context, for fear that it would ruin the experience should you wish to play it. I will say that it is exactly what I expected from an ending of an album, bringing everything together in a way that connects with the rest of the tracks while striking itself out as something unique. Interestingly, just like an album, the first viewing is simply raw emotions: upon ending the game, Memoir En Code urges you to restart from the beginning once again and find the pieces that you may have missed the first time. These are usually signified by the achievements for each track which are indicated by the right hand icons changing colour and shape. There is also a director’s section that gives Alex’s viewpoint and discourse on each of the tracks, which I found immensely helpful solving a few of the puzzles. It’s a game about the life of an individual and their struggles, between the mundane observations to the heart wrenching. It’s a gateway into the life of another, told by them.
If you enjoy experimental games, wish to connect with one you’ve never met or have a love for album structuring, give Memoir En Code a playthrough. Like all albums, it starts with a single listen that’s relatively short, but you’ll probably end up listening to some parts dozens of times.
Pixel Session Vol. 1 is a collection of different pixelated arcade games made by Rémy Devaux under the name TrasevolDog, a solo French dev who has an extensive collection of pixel games made in Pico-8. Each game has its own mechanics and gameplay, in which only a score higher than a certain letter grade (normally B) will unlock the next game through receiving a password to unzip them. Normally, I would cover what makes them tie together so nicely and other breakdowns, but due to how different my reactions were to each game I’m going to be covering them a little differently; those successfully accomplished decent results, and those I absolutely flunked out.
Upon booting Pixel Session Vol. 1, players will be greeted to the first title Descent, a dual game of avoiding bouncing balls while destroying the platform to lower the little protagonist so they don’t clip through the screen and disappear. The only instructions given are in little pictograms before starting the game, and they’re more guidelines than actual tutorial pieces — a common theme throughout the entirety of the game as they are arcade games after all. After a few tries, I finally realized I was able to move the little character and jump around, and that’s when I started getting into the rhythm. I’d have to say that it was by far the most compelling of the series from my point of view, and probably soaked up my most time as I tried for that B rating, with the combination of movement AND platform management in the form of pressing the corresponding button on the platform. It almost became a bit of a rhythm game by the end, and I finally broke through to getting that B and seeing what the next game was.
Game 2 was a game called Lightner that gives the tiny dancing person an electric connection between a small ball that is thrown to destroy enemies upon contact of the ball, or the electrical current between the two. With a much slower pace, I was able to destroy many enemies in my wake with the power of lightning, only a few times getting caught by the spooky jellyfish-esque monsters due to my own hubris. I also may or may not have referenced the ball thrown as the old DVD screensaver that would bounce on corners of TVs and turn colours. It certainly did help with the angles at times, but in general the movement based mechanic was quite catchy, coming up with new ways to electrify everyone in a room thanks to angles.
Game 3 is where I broke. Big Broth3r as it is called is a game about figuring out what the game is while playing in a colourful mess of a world while a massive eyeball stares at our little character and shoots black lasers from the sky. It has only the arrow keys as inputs, and it took til the end of my attempts to figure out that points were only accumulated by touching the green words on the descent. Unfortunately, even then I barely made it past 12 points. The visuals, while outstanding, started to get in the way of my understanding of what was actually going on, and by the time I had figured it out it was less of an ‘Ah HA!’ and more of a ‘oh.’ This was the first game I cheated on.
The second was by far the most difficult out of the entire series, Charging Panic. Players take control of the same character from every game prior, but this time have the ability to clone themselves. The reasoning is simple; there are batteries that need charging, which occurs by a person standing on their button. These batteries lose charge if nobody is standing on them, and eventually disappear which causes a life to be lost. Players utilize the clones to press on the dozens of battery buttons that may appear while protecting them from these scary red balls that appear and can destroy clones instantly by touching them. Unlike the prior title, I actually adored this mechanic and had it figured out relatively early on thanks to the sacrifices a bunch of my clones had to make. Managing the batteries on the screen while saving and managing clones was brutal, but quite fun as I had to sacrifice some clones to ensure that a battery on one end could be properly fueled. Didn’t help me get past a D rating though, which after an extensive amount of play lead me to cheating on this one as well. I’m not proud of this one.
Finally is Chroma Cannon, which hilariously enough I found to be the easiest. Players are now a man-powered cannon, firing at dangerous worms of two different colours to ensure they do not reach the player. Rotating to shoot the cannon and changing colour are easy enough, and with a goal of reaching 1000 before it resets to the next two colours it’s quite manageable in an addicting sort of way. It was a tad odd to having so many different game feel very punishing only to have the final one not be, but under the circumstances of each title it makes sense for Chroma Cannon. The only punish I could see would be shooting the wrong colours, but that would feel almost oppressive due to how many worms can appear at times.
That is all of the titles included in Volume 1 of Pixel Session; each packaged with a simple mechanic and polished visuals to varying degrees of fun depending on the player themselves. For me, Descent and Chroma Cannon were my two favourites with Charging Panic and Lightner coming in behind. However, these titles are all meant to be played in succession, so it might not be wise to take the opinion of one who had to cheat to acquire 2 of the titles. They’re all interesting in their own right, and fulfill what was advertised with each spearheading a fairly simple yet fresh mechanic twist that works in a solo arcade experience. If you are looking for simple titles that may make you grind your teeth in frustration or play for hours ‘by accident’, then Pixel Session Vol. 1 has you covered. I’m curious to see what happens with Vol. 2.
Oh and no, I’m not going to talk about the Final Reward, that’s for you to find out.
Memoir En Code: Reissue
Memoir En Code: Reissue is an autobiographical game album. Designed to be experienced similarly to a music album, this…