Every once in a while, a game such as 11 – 11: Memories Retold comes along that makes you wonder just what is going on. Even its unique painted style visuals makes one wonder how developer Aardman came up with such an idea.
The story aims to use the events leading up to the end of the first World War as a backdrop for telling the stories of individuals and their struggles. The year is 1916 and just like many young men trying to transition into adulthood, young photographer Harry finds himself enlisting to fight in the war. This initiative seems to stem from a desire to impress Julie, the daughter of the shop owner he works for, whom he is infatuated with. As players soon find out, Harry is definitely way over his head as he gets asked to take photographs in the trenches whilst doing his best to stay alive.
Harry’s portion of the game was the one that presented the most danger since it was necessary to dodge enemy fire. Surprisingly enough, the development team decided to make Harry quite human, in that one hit would result in his death. At least dying only meant losing some progress, since there were several checkpoints to restart from.
It was enjoyable to experience a take on a war setting as a character that didn’t have any way to defend himself. Even if the painted style visuals made it somewhat disorientating to move about the area. The visuals look really nice when just looking at them, but it took some time to getting used to focusing on a specific part of the screen and then continuing to do so whilst moving the character. In a way, this art direction is reminiscent of what it looks like for someone that is short/long sighted to try to walk around without glasses. If anything, the art style looks best when being viewed during cut scenes.
Another character that was playable was Kurt who enlists in the army to look for his son. Kurt’s role is more active than Harry, given that he is tasked with helping others by fixing equipment and bringing supplies to them. At least he wasn’t in constant danger and although he still needs to hurry to complete tasks, it’s still a nice change of pace.
What was truly fascinating though was noticing that both men are on different sides of the war. In a game already filled with unusual choices, it’s even more rare to show players both sides of a war. In an interesting twist, both men find themselves stuck together right before the end of the demo. The best surprise is kept for towards the end when what is hopefully not a one off brief adventure controlling a cat brought some much needed levity to the horrors of war.
Despite its serious setting, there is no denying that 11- 11: Memories Retold has charm from the way that it is presented. It takes some getting used to its art style, but if the rest of the game is anything like this, then it could prove to be a worthy new take on the war genre.