The debut game from Roomah Gaming, Memories of East Coast takes us, as the character Sam, on a journey through memory, nostalgia, and guilt. As he revisits a place he hasn’t been to in fifteen years, an unexpected specter from his past emerges, forcing him to face those ghosts once again in new ways.
The developer provided a download key for this game, and a review was requested.
This small narrative experience focuses in on a very specific thing, and it does so elegantly: setting a mood. You never see the main characters, letting you sit in their shoes as the game moves through memory after memory. You experience the world as Sam does, inhabiting his skin and his memories as they reshape around him. The art is sketchy and ethereal with a delightful undone quality. The visuals are dynamic without being busy or particularly complex. Combined with a well-curated sound track, it really does an excellent job of moving you through a lilting, drifting pace that mimics the feel of recollection and nostalgia.
With the game hinging so heavily on the nature of its writing, it does make it a little harder to overlook its bigger flaws in that regard. The central premise is great. The idea of moving through time and sort of re-experiencing certain memories as they trigger is an effective and interesting storytelling tool. Sam’s guilt over his perceived part in his parents’ death is a beautiful exploration of how we process trauma. Meeting Lisa and coming to learn about their shared past is an intriguing bit of serendipity that really opens of a lot of doors for Sam to reexamine that aforementioned trauma. The game dips into as much as it can for such a short run time.
The difficulty, however, arises when looking at the writing itself at a textual level. It’s just not that great. It can get a bit awkward and clunky, and the dialogue feels extremely inorganic. Much of it feels like English as a second language and might simply be rectified with another round of proofreading and editing. Other parts, however profound they may be in content, just lack any sense of poetry or flow, breaking the tonal immersion.
It almost feels sometimes like the writing isn’t quite confident enough in its own themes and inherent human intrigue, so it feels the need to inject what almost feels like melodrama into certain scenes to drive home its points. Without giving away spoilers, I can’t help but think of a description of a car crash. It over-complicates the physicality of the crash in an attempt, I can only assume, to heighten the impact of it, but instead loses the thread of itself and where it’s going. What could have been an intense emotional experience instead focuses so much on the confusing physics of a car crash (that a child that age wouldn’t have understood anyway) that it loses all of its tension.
You also have to hand-wave away the realism of a lot of story points to not get stuck on the fact that Sam and Lisa’s relationship is very weird. The narrative complications around Lisa wouldn’t occur the way they do if we presume the setting is accurate to the way it’s presented. What makes this frustrating is that all of these problems would be solved by simply aging Lisa up from a teenager to an adult. She in no way shape or form needs to be a teen for this story, and even going just to eighteen (from fifteen) almost completely eradicates some of these problems.
You’re also presented with choices that don’t seem to do anything. Instead you’re just railroaded down to the end of the story. If it was trying to make a point about the nature of fate, it doesn’t do so effectively. All of these little things feel like a symptom of a development team and process that had some really good ideas and the impetus to act on them effectively, but maybe didn’t think things all the way through or see all the holes they had made.
Memories of East Coast is a narrative experience with a lot of really great stuff in it. The ideas are solid, and it knows that it wants to tell a certain kind of story. The execution can be very hit or miss, however. That being said, it has some wonderfully poignant moments and is a great example of cultivating a specific feeling to an experience, even if the experience itself has a number of flaws.
Download it at itch.io.