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(all images courtesy Bit Byterz)

If you’ve ever read Japanese author Haruki Murakami’s magical realist fiction — filled with characters like a six-foot-tall “superfrog,” a human data processor named Calcutec, and a cat killer who makes flutes out of cats’ souls — and wished someone would turn his bizarre world into a video game, you’re in luck.

Memoranda, created by four-person development team Bit Byterz, is inspired by 20 of Murakami’s famous short stories. Currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, the 2-D point-and-click adventure game (think old-school 1990s computer games) is built for Linux, Mac, and PC. Of the many video games inspired by works of fiction, from Agatha Christie novels to George R.R. Martin tales, Memoranda is one of the few to focus on contemporary literary fiction.

“We thought that the vague, surrealistic reality of Murakami’s fictional world would have a great potential for being turned into something visual and could lead to the creation of odd characters, an essential element in game design,” Sahand Saedi writes of his inspiration. Maliheh Rarovan’s darkly comic animation style is reminiscent of The TTriplets of Bellevilleeverything looks tinged in a sickly yellow, capturing Murakami’s eerie atmospheres.

The gameplay employs a common plot device in Murakami’s stories: the search for a lost belonging. What the 30 characters have in common, from an elephant hoping to become human to a woman who realizes she’s forgetting her own name, is that they’re all missing something. Through a series of 40 puzzles, set in a darkly enchanted town filled with laptops and bamboo water clocks, the player tries to find what the characters have lost. “Our primary mission is to help the main character find her name back,” the designers write.

Translating works of fiction into video game graphics is still a relatively new endeavor, and it poses many of the challenges of adapting a book to the screen. So, as with film adaptations, whether Memoranda does justice to Murakami’s work will be up to the author’s fans to decide.

(GIF courtesy Bit Byterz)

Stills from ‘Memoranda’

Character sketches for ‘Memoranda’

Memoranda is seeking funding on Kickstarter until November 15th. You can pre-order a digital copy for $16. 

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Carey Dunne

Carey Dunne is a Brooklyn-based writer covering arts and culture. Her work has appeared in The Guardian, The Baffler, The Village Voice, and elsewhere.

One reply on “Finding What’s Lost in a Video Game Inspired by Haruki Murakami”

  1. Um.. Why are none of the characters Japanese? Even if they were trying to reflect the population of Canada this doesn’t do it. It looks like the closest they’ve come to racial diversity is a birdman. Whitewashing much?

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