Memoranda: Haruki Murakami’s World Recreated as a Classic Adventure Video Game

Haru­ki Muraka­mi has a spe­cial way of inspir­ing his fans. I write these very words, in fact, from a cof­fee shop in Seoul not just stocked with his books and the music ref­er­enced in them but named after the jazz bar he ran in Tokyo in the 1970s before becom­ing a writer. But each fan builds their own kind of mon­u­ment to the author of Nor­we­gian WoodHard-Boiled Won­der­land and the End of the WorldThe Wind-Up Bird Chron­i­cle, and oth­er nov­els with a sen­si­bil­i­ty all their own. The Muraka­mi-heads (or per­haps Haruk­ists) at Van­cou­ver-based stu­dio Bit Byterz have cho­sen to pay elab­o­rate trib­ute to Muraka­mi by recre­at­ing his uncan­ny world with an adven­ture game called Mem­o­ran­da.

You may remem­ber this project from when we fea­tured its Kick­starter dri­ve back in 2015. Bit Byterz end­ed up rais­ing about $20,000, enabling them to release Mem­o­ran­da this year. You can buy it on Steam, or first view the launch trail­er above and get a sense of what The Verge’s Andrew Web­ster describes as a game “inspired in large part by Murakami’s sto­ries” which “cen­ters on a young woman in a vague­ly Euro­pean town who has lost her mem­o­ry — she doesn’t even remem­ber her name. (The title, Mem­o­ran­da, refers to the sticky notes she uses to remind her­self of impor­tant things.)” While not a direct adap­ta­tion of any one work of Murakami’s in par­tic­u­lar, its loca­tions, its char­ac­ters, and above all its atmos­phere come drawn from the same — to use a high­ly appro­pri­ate metaphor — well.

“I start­ed with one of his short sto­ries, and grad­u­al­ly added char­ac­ters from oth­er short sto­ries,” lead devel­op­er Sahand Sae­di told Way­point’s John Robert­son. “I tried to bring over the sur­re­al atmos­phere, as well as the lone­ly and strange char­ac­ters from the sto­ries, and hope that the gamer will feel like they are liv­ing in one of these sto­ries while play­ing.” Robert­son describes Mem­o­ran­da as “an adven­ture game in the most tra­di­tion­al sense, in terms of inter­ac­tion and pac­ing. While it might be tak­ing an enlight­ened path to adapt­ing one medi­um into anoth­er, it fol­lows well-trod­den game design routes, and sticks to estab­lished rules. You click on items or pick them up, observe them or inter­act with them, sav­ing key exam­ples to your inven­to­ry for lat­er use in puz­zles that are often abstract in their con­struc­tion.”

And so Mem­o­ran­da at once pays homage to the dis­tinc­tive real­i­ty — or rather unre­al­i­ty — of Murakami’s fic­tion and to the dis­tinc­tive gam­ing expe­ri­ence of point-and-click adven­ture games, the genre that first took shape on home com­put­ers in the 1980s and pro­duced the likes of Mani­ac Man­sion, the King’s Quest series (not to men­tion all of Sier­ra On-Line’s oth­er Quests), the Mon­key Island series, and Myst. More recent­ly it has under­gone some­thing of a renais­sance thanks to crowd­fund­ing ser­vices like Kick­starter, ever since respect­ed point-and-click adven­ture game design­er Tim Schafer raised $3.45 mil­lion to fund 2015’s Bro­ken Age. Bit Byterz may have had only a small frac­tion of that bud­get to work with, but they know, as every avid Muraka­mi read­er knows, that mere mon­ey can’t buy uncan­ni­ness.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

In Search of Haru­ki Muraka­mi: A Doc­u­men­tary Intro­duc­tion to Japan’s Great Post­mod­ernist Nov­el­ist

An Intro­duc­tion to the World of Haru­ki Muraka­mi Through Doc­u­men­taries, Sto­ries, Ani­ma­tion, Music Playlists & More

New Video Game Inspired by 20 Haru­ki Muraka­mi Sto­ries Is Com­ing Your Way: Help Kick­start It

Read 5 Sto­ries By Haru­ki Muraka­mi Free Online (For a Lim­it­ed Time)

A Pho­to­graph­ic Tour of Haru­ki Murakami’s Tokyo, Where Dream, Mem­o­ry, and Real­i­ty Meet

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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  • Josi says:

    What a great pity this game is not avail­able for mobile devices!
    Been a very long time since I’ve bust­ed out my lap­top to play games.
    Real­ly need an app of this for my iPhone and iPad — please!

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