The level of content coming out of one person studios these days is frankly astounding. Part of that is definitely due to the great level of community developed IP available for anyone on their engine of choice as well as the host of ancillary tools and assets available that can make some challenging tasks trivial. I’m also a fan of short concept games that are then used to garner interest from the general public or from publishers as they’re much, much better than a short Kickstarter video which always writes more cheques than the developer could ever cash. Bright Memory is the latest one-person studio wonder to hit Steam and whilst there’s only a morsel of a game here what’s there is good and worthy of being developed further.
The game opens with a rapid fire of what I assume are relevant plot details but they’re largely forgotten in the unrelenting combat that begins pretty much immediately. The best way to describe it would be Bulletstorm meets a JRPG (I’d say Devil May Cry but I’ve never actually played it, just seen a few vids). Whilst the mainstay is the gunplay there’s a trove of abilities to go along with it, all the while you have a points meter ticking over up in the right hand corner, grading you on your every move. You’ve also got something resembling a talent tree powered by XP that drops from all the enemies you defeat. Honestly even taking into consideration the game’s short length the amount of stuff crammed in here is pretty darn impressive.
The combat is ridiculously fast paced and thoroughly enjoyable. From memory there’s only 2 guns to choose from: your standard assault rifle and a somewhat disappointing shotgun. You also seemingly have a limited ammo supply with no drops in sight but even if you miss every second shot I doubt you’d run dry. The guns seem pretty effective although there’s a couple types of enemies which don’t seem to really react to the numerous bullets you put into them which is why, of course, you have your magical abilities to fall back on.
The abilities follow the standard RPG tropes pretty closely, giving you all the kinds of choices that wouldn’t be out of place for a caster class in another game. None of them drastically change how combat encounters play out but there’s a couple of them that will make your life easier at some points (like the giant dome of slashy things that basically levels all the low level enemies for you). The combination with the gunplay makes for a great experience, even if it’s not exactly an original concept. Being fair of course though games that have done a similar kind of FPS/RPG hybrid like this have usually had a few more developers on the books.
Of course there’s a ton of rough edges but they’re mostly forgivable. Enemies can get themselves stuck in all manner of places which can make for a rather frustrating time as you try and track them down so you can trigger the next section to open up for you. The double jump is a bit finicky in its implementation which isn’t a problem for most of the game but when it’s part of a platforming puzzle it does become a little frustrating. There’s also some really wooden animation, not to mention the fact the dev apparently nicked a bunch of models from other games to bolster his game a little more. All these are sins that can either be fixed or made up for when they start working on the full game, something which they should be able to do given the’ve sold almost 200,000 copies of it.
When all is said and done Bright Memory is mostly just a testament to how far one person can go these days when they’ve got an idea and time to see it realised. There’s nothing particularly novel or new here but the game’s short play time manages to demonstrate the majority of core mechanics that we’ve come to expect from AAA developers. The experience could use a couple layers of polish and a fleshing out of the core ideas the dev wants to explore to make this concept really shine but honestly, at this point, I think it’s probably done its job. Should you buy it though? That I’m less sure of as at this point it’s really only for those who’ve bought into the concept in one way or another. If you’re looking for the next game to really sink your teeth into this isn’t it but hey, if you’ve got a few dollars and 30 minutes to kill well there isn’t much else out there at the moment.
Bright Memory is available on iOS and PC right now for $14.50. Game was played on the PC with a total of 37 minutes play time and 50% of the achievements unlocked.