When it comes to FPS, I go for arcade-style chaos over tactical military shooter every time. Carving a path of destruction through games like Borderlands and DEATHLOOP was a joy. Bright Memory: Infinite from FYQD-Studio and PLAYISM looks like it fits into that same bedlam and blasting style. There are guns! There are swords! You can do a rocket punch! It has to be a good time, right? Right??
A Narrative Black Hole
Bright Memory: Infinite drops you into the exo-suit of Shelia Tan, an elite operative of the Supernatural Science Research Organization. Shelia not only packs the usual array of firearms but is also decked out with a sword and an electromagnetic exo-arm. She’ll need them too, as she cuts her way through foes both futuristic and fantastic and a treacherous environment to reach her objective. Whatever it takes to complete the mission.
This is the part where I’d tell you what Bright Memory: Infinite is about, but the story is such an incomprehensible mess I’m not even sure I can. After a black hole spontaneously appears, your boss sends you to secure the location before a rival group gets there. You know, the standard everyday mission. Except that plot is almost immediately abandoned and you instead start fighting ancient Chinese warriors. Time travel? Alternate black hole dimension? Bright Memory: Infinite doesn’t seem to know or care why anything you see on-screen happens. Characters pop in and out with no rhyme or reason. Shelia and her boss refer to antagonists as if they’re established threats, but the game never bothers to explain who they are.
I’m perfectly happy with a cheesy B-movie plot in my action games, but Bright Memory: Infinite can’t even manage that. Most of the cutscenes that punctuate the action are non-sequiturs – someone had a half-baked idea for a visual set piece and decided to throw it in reason be damned. Sure, let’s have 30 seconds of Shelia flying some futuristic aircraft that will never be relevant again. Some of the scenes have QTEs, but if you fail, the screen simply fades to black. Bright Memory: Infinite didn’t even bother to animate the outcome. Why have QTEs at all then? I would have skipped all this nonsense, but you can’t do that either! Bright Memory: Infinite forces you to suffer through its incoherent drivel. At least the cutscenes are short, if not short enough.
Slash and Dash
While the story might be nonsense, no one is playing Bright Memory: Infinite for its story. We’re here for the action. So how does that hold up? Shelia has a lot of options in combat. Gunplay is smooth and always a viable choice, but it’s the other stuff where Bright Memory: Infinite looks to make its mark. Shelia’s sword can be used for both offense and defense. She can dash forward to slice and dice her foes or take up a defensive stance that repels both melee attacks and bullets. Her exo-arm can push, pull, and even suspend enemies in midair. Add in a dash that jets Shelia around the battlefield, multiple ammo types, and upgrades for both the sword and the exo-arm, and the possibilities are vast.
Shelia’s moveset is designed with combos in mind. Dash forward with your sword, send out a shockwave that knocks foes off their feet, and finish them off with a hail of gunfire before they hit the ground. Yank a guy from across a cliff with the exo-arm and smash him with a devastating rocket punch that unleashes a torrent of flame while he’s suspended helplessly in midair. Pulling off these stunts is satisfying, and when Bright Memory: Infinite finds its groove, the combat can feel awesome. But it takes two to tango, and that’s where things start going downhill.
Things Fall Apart
Bright Memory: Infinite’s AI is bizarre. Once an enemy becomes aware of you, they always know exactly where you are, even if they can’t see you. Ranged enemies will continue firing at you while you’re behind cover, and their bullets simply pass through whatever rock or pillar you’re hiding behind. Bullets passing through cover don’t damage you, but it’s a distracting visual effect that makes it difficult to figure out where the immediate threats are. Melee enemies will simply run straight at you and start swinging. No one ever makes any attempt to flank you or use any sort of tactics.
Rather than cunning, difficulty comes from foes’ massive health pools and numbers (with a healthy side of cheating and bugs). Grunts are numerous and often continuously spawn in while heavy enemies and especially bosses are absolute bullet sponges. Shelia’s melee attacks are heftier but getting in close is dangerous and it’s not always clear what you can and can’t block. Bright Memory: Infinite wants you to dart in and out of danger with Shelia’s movement abilities, but poor collision detection, invisible walls, and inconsistent logic as to what terrain is traversable mean it’s easy to get stuck, which is a surefire way to get yourself killed. Enemies hit hard and to survive you need to keep moving to cover and use your guard.
Occasionally, Bright Memory: Infinite shifts gears and has you do something other than slash your way through hordes of foes. For example, platforming segments see Shelia make use of wall-running and her exo-suit’s grapple to navigate difficult terrain. The developer clearly had a wealth of ideas, but in this case, more isn’t better. Bright Memory: Infinite should have just stuck to what it does well (or well in a relative sense at least). The non-combat portions are the worst parts of the game. They’re thoughtlessly slapped on without the necessary mechanics or environment design to support them and only serve to remind you that, for the moment, Bright Memory: Infinite has arbitrarily decided that you can’t do the one thing that is somewhat fun.
Sloppy design and bugs add to the frustration. On the technical side, I experienced two hard crashes, which is significant for a 2-hour long campaign. Checkpoints are frequent, so I never lost most progress, but even continuing from those is treacherous. On several occasions enemies started damaging me before I had finished loading in. Bright Memory: Infinite is also riddled with issues that, while perhaps not technically bugs, represent unacceptable sloppiness. Portions of the text were never translated to English. You see this most often in the subtitles, which switch over to Chinese for a line or two every now and then. This also extends to game text. Parts of Shelia’s upgrade tree and some of the warning text that flashes on screen are still in Chinese, so I had no idea what those were about. This issue is so widespread that it’s hard to believe anyone bothered to check the translation at all.
(Editor Note: We have been informed that some of the technical issues mentioned have been addressed in the recent update)
Art, Sound, and Extras
Bright Memory: Infinite looks good for an independent game. The design of Shelia and her loadout is cool, and enemies have helpful visual cues that identify their type. Supposedly some of the environments are based on actual locations in China, though in truth I found them a bit drab. The textures and animation aren’t anything to write home about, but they do the job. I think Bright Memory: Infinite acquits itself well enough on the visual front.
The sound effects and music are at that level where they more or less fade into the background. Some of the gunfire effects were a bit tinny. I think a bit more punch would have given the gunplay a better sense of weight, but nothing here is awful. The same can’t be said for the voice acting. The voice actors’ jobs couldn’t have been easy since the lines barely make sense, but everything is delivered in a wooden tone and characters talk at each other rather than react to anything going on around them.
There’s not much to do besides the main campaign, which took me about 2 hours. You can raise the difficulty and start again in a new game+ where you carry over all your gear and upgrades. Completing certain difficulties or challenges unlocks skins for Shelia and her weapons in case you wanted to send her into combat dressed as a catgirl. Oh and for some reason she has boob jiggle physics. I didn’t even notice until I saw the costumes since Bright Memory: Infinite is a first-person game, but maybe if you look closely you can catch an eyeful during the cutscenes. Is this gratuitous and unnecessary? Yes, but it might still make more sense than the story.
Bright Memory: Infinite has a nascent vision of what it wants to be. And honestly, that vision is kind of good. With the right elements around it, Bright Memory: Infinite’s combat could have shined. Unfortunately, everything else is an incoherent mishmash of undeveloped ideas, lazy design, sloppiness, and technical problems. Even at the budget price of $9.99 I can’t recommend this mess.
BRIGHT MEMORY: INFINITE IS NOT RECOMMENDED
Many thanks go to PLAYISM for a PC review code for this title.
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A veteran of Oregon Trail and Battletoads, Wes has been playing and talking about games for as long as he can remember. He’s down to try almost anything, and he especially enjoys games with gripping narrative experiences.