I haven’t felt so enlightened and disturbed at the same time, by a video game since discovering Moirai (a short F2P that’s sadly, no longer playable). A strange connection which Keep in Mind: Remastered also shares from the point of view of its gameplay length. Rarely do I find titles that can be finished within 20 minutes or less, but that’s not to say that such a limited time frame cannot suffice for a strong impression. And in case you’re wondering, the initial Keep in Mind was a 2016 release by Little Moth Studios while the 2018 remastered version I’m writing about, is the Steam development debut of Akupara Games (better known as publishers of titles such as Whispering Willows or Star Vikings Forever).
Right off the bat, I shall explain that I never discriminate a title for any reason at all. That obviously includes length of its gameplay. Ironically, it took me more time to write this review than see Keep in Mind: Remastered’s story all the way through. However, I could call it anything but wasted time. Why? Well the game’s narrative revolves around alcoholism and its subsequent spiral of regret which leads to a very convincing guilt trip for our protagonist, Jonas. This fallen hero’s chance at redemption is still within reach, but the brief road ahead will be filled with vivid examples/memories of the very reasons which brought him to the brink of despair. I hope you’re not expecting me to spoil any further details to a storyline which can take you less to finish, than eating your breakfast. As a final metaphor, compare Jonas’ eye-opening journey to that which finally led to a change of heart for Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”. But far more twisted, naturally.
Nothing creates a stronger contrast within Keep in Mind: Remastered, than its visual assets that provide a clear distinction between Jonas’ reality and the “living nightmare” he must endure in his inebriated state. To put it in simple terms, the game looks like an Atari 2600 release for the majority of its gameplay. It didn’t bother me that much since I’m aware that this was a clear level design and narrative choice. Independent developers and their projects wouldn’t be the same, without bold stylistic decisions which may be interpreted as unnecessary risks by “high rollers” of the gaming industry. I think that these differences in opinion and approach methods, are a defining trait and a selling point. Being different and offering something that no one else will, is a large part of the appeal, afterall. Long story short, the game runs flawlessly and it scaled to 4K resolution without a single issue. The original Keep in Mind was powered by GameMaker: Studio but the Remastered is finally joining the Unity Engine team.
The sounds were also overhauled and while they won’t be mindblowing in any capacity, they maintain the tension of its mature themes. Some voice acting wouldn’t have gone unnoticed, but alas, it’s a text-based story which plays out as a visual novel to a certain extent. The soundtrack was on par with the visuals and I couldn’t complain about song variety since it shouldn’t take you longer to get to the bottom of Jonas’ plights, than the span of a couple of songs.
If you’re familiar with the aforementioned 1843 novella about a heartless miser, you know that the “hero” gets visited by three ethereal entities calling themselves “The Ghosts of Christmas”. Our story’s Jonas receives the “concerned visits” of 16 creatures. These can be of supernatural origins or not. Literal materialization of the protagonist’s fears and past or present failures. His inner demons, if you will. They can be quite vocal but their role is purely educational. Jonas isn’t on a trip through any hell. Perhaps he’s stuck in limbo, but his salvation isn’t hopeless. Jonas must travel across a small territory that’s comprised of his suburban neighborhood and interact with these sixteen unwanted guests. Only upon hearing all their stories or gloating, can he safely return to his home and bedroom. Alcohol triggered insanity played out as a central theme in Layers of Fear, but Keep in Mind shares only the similarity of a strained marriage as the direct result of that vice.
Depending on how much you care about moralizing undertones, you may enjoy Keep in Mind: Remastered or not. It’s perfectly understandable and I had my own initial reservations. I decided to keep recommending it, because of the serious issues it discusses and the fact that it still offers a satisfying end which isn’t characteristic to the horror genre, this title wishes to belong to. The true sense of fear and uncertainty doesn’t stem from the overindulgence regarding intoxicating substances, but from the monster they can transform you into. Don’t go thinking that I’m a teetotaler or that I’ll be judging what you do with your mind and body. You know better than me, what are your expectations and desires. Finding a balance or not, even cruelly brief titles such as Keep in Mind: Remastered can be veritable life lesson for the open-minded.
All the screenshots you see above, have been taken by me in-game through the Steam Overlay.