Remember one thing, and it might lead to remembering another. It might be difficult to, say, remember the house where you lived as a child, but try thinking hard about something that happened there. What room were you in? What's outside the door, or down the hall? In Palette, a free narrative puzzle adventure made by Yoshitaka Nishida and translated by Vgperson (whose other translations include Ib, The Witch's House, and The Crooked Man), Dr. Sianos B. Sian needs to travel down a much twistier trail— B.D., his new patient, barely remembers anything, and it's up to him to take her one remaining memory and guide her through the process of recovering her past.
Call up B.D. and explore her memories, fleshing them out as best as you can, forming connections, and pushing past her mental blocks. To make it harder, B.D. only has so much emotional energy, which she expends with every bit of digging, old or new. With so many directions available from the start, you'll have to pick and choose your battles. Can B.D. handle this path? That one? Some directions are best left for when she's feeling stronger, and you might need to play with a notebook in hand to keep track of them all— Palette isn't just going to test B.D.'s memory, it's going to test yours, too.
The original Japanese version of Palette took home the grand prize in the Fourth ASCII Entertainment Software Contest , and even got a PlayStation re-release, And it won for a reason: this game is good. It's a sharp, tricky puzzle that's much more original than it seems, and it's likely to stay with you long after the credits roll. On the other hand... Palette won that contest in 1998. It's very dated-looking, and though it still plays on new computers, it doesn't play perfectly. Sometimes the semi-monochrome effect is missing, or the sound files stack into a cacophonous heap of bleating noise.
Palette has a few smaller problems, too: Dr. Sian could have easily been left out, some aspects of the story might test your suspension of disbelief, and the gameplay is nicely expanded, but pretty one-note. There are plenty of reasons why Palette just isn't a game for everyone. But on the other other hand, if you're looking for a great story, a simple but thoughtful puzzle, or a tiny piece of amateur game development history, this might be one for you. Palette, to me, is like a catchy song. Even if it's been a while since I've heard it in full, sometimes a few bars pop into my head and I think of it and smile. Memories are funny like that, huh?
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