11-11: Memories Retold Review – Paint It Beige (PS4)
War. As gamers we’ve seen several sides of war. Most of the time we wield guns and charge headfirst into battle to fight for our country, to fight for what our side believes to be right. 11-11: Memories Retold lets us walk in the shoes of two men taking part in World War I. Men who enlisted for very different reasons. Men whose lives would never be the same again.
A Farewell to Arms
Harry is a young photographer in Toronto. He works at a shop and is in love with his employer’s daughter, Julia. When a Major Barrett of the Canadian Expeditionary Force enters the shop one afternoon, Harry finds himself enlisting and following the military man overseas. With a newly issued uniform and the best camera from Julia’s shop, Harry is now an official photographer of The Great War.
Across the ocean, Kurt is part of a German team building aircraft to be used in battle. The father of two has his life completely turned upside down when heartbreaking news reaches town. Determined to find his deployed son and bring him home, Kurt enlists and is sent to the lines where he will work as an radio technician.
These are the entwined stories that drive 11-11: Memories Retold. At the beginning of each chapter you will choose whose side you wish to start with, and at certain intervals the game will switch you over to experience what is happening on the other side of the front. For my first run, I stuck to my roots and chose to see the war through Harry’s eyes first. And yes, it is mostly because he is Canadian and we are under-represented in video games. But a small part of why I always chose him first had to do with the fact that he shares the same given name as my paternal grandfather who served for Canada in World War II.
One of the elements I thoroughly enjoyed was the addition of the two animals. Being able to play occasionally as Harry’s pigeon and Kurt’s adopted cat Lotty helped to break up the dreariness. There’s just something delightful in jumping and running about as a cat, even when it’s through No Man’s Land. And soaring through the sky alongside bombers and blimps! I literally leaned forward in my seat every time I was given control of Harry’s pigeon.
Choices do matter in this game. While ultimately nothing changes the overall outcome of WWI (it isn’t trying to rewrite history), the fates of Harry and Kurt are in your hands. DigixArt has taken the interactive story model and given me new hope for the genre now that Telltale Games is no more. I crave these sorts of emotional experiences in gaming. It also reminded me that I have Valiant Hearts: The Great War waiting to be played from my library.
The Art of War
If the “Hey, there’s a Canadian in this game” portion of this game is my equivalent of cake, the artistic style of the game is Pinterest-mom frosting that covers the whole thing. I’ve long been a fan of Aardman Animations’ claymation projects, so it was astonishing to see them bring this unique painted world to life. Every detail is a brush stroke. Look closely enough and you can see where bristles ran through the paint as it was pushed against the canvas. I find it easy to be distracted by the scenery all around me when I should be running for cover, even when my surroundings are a nothing more than a bleak and muddy trench populated with soldiers in uniforms to match the muck.
Memories are not sharp, like photographs. They get blurry as we age. What we remember (or don’t) allows them to bleed into other memories. At least this is how I see it. I truly believe that this painted art style was necessary for telling Harry and Kurt’s stories. I only encountered one real issue pertaining to the art, and even then it wasn’t the art’s fault. The white subtitle text can be extremely difficult to read against the beige set, but it gets so much worse as you near November 11, 1918. White text on snow, even with the slight shadowing, is not the best to read when you need to make quick decisions.
Letters from the Front
While Kurt and Harry’s story plays out, there are a plethora of collectible items to locate throughout each chapter. Each act of the game has a special bonus video that unlocks once you’ve gathered all of the hidden items. These range from famous photographs to artwork and letters. Some are a single piece, others ripped into multiple bits. The War Child DLC adds even more collectibles to the mix, all for a charitable cause.
Unfortunately, collectible hunting becomes a bit of a chore. There are many pieces in each chapter, and sometimes the blank sheet of paper that represents a collectible either blends into the background or doesn’t float above ground as it should. I’ve spotted a few that glitch into the ground, but are up just enough that I can interact with it.
11-11: Memories Retold was released in time for the Armistice Day centenary. As I watched the credits roll, I noticed several of the team members who worked on the game had done so in honor of people who had served. The Canadian in me started reciting “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae and my eyes were drawn to the red poppy I wear during November in remembrance. When a game connects with me on a level like that, let’s just say I’m still feeling those feels hours after putting the controller down.
With so many choices left unexplored and far too many hidden items I have yet to discover, 11-11: Memories Retold is a replayable title with new experiences for me to discover. What if I don’t send that picture to Julia and send this one instead? And where is that last card game I seem to have missed? It only took about four and a half hours for me to complete the game once. Surely I can spare another afternoon or two to bolster my trophy count and make some tough choices.
11-11: Memories Retold review code provided by publisher. Version 1.01 reviewed on a standard PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy here.