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  • Writer's pictureSofi

Melon Journey: Bittersweet Memories (2023)

Developer: Froach Club

I'd been eyeing Melon Journey: Bittersweet Memories on my wishlist for a while now, especially when I saw it featured on the March cover of Patch Magazine. I couldn't help but pick it up during the Steam sale (as if I don't have a ton of other summer indie releases to stay on top of already) but I'm definitely glad I did. Melon Journey: Bittersweet Memories is an outlandish story exploration game about a girl named Honeydew on an unexpected quest to find her best friend Cantaloupe. Melon Journey is a charming and goofy adventure full of heart, interesting characters, and a masterfully executed gameboy-era visual style.

Honeydew is a young woman who works at Egaltine Industries, a large company that creates all sort of melon-related products (and forces their employees to wear bunny headbands). One day, she receives a note from her best friend and coworker Clementine that says to skip work and meet him in the nearby town, Hog City. As she's trying to leave the office, a coworker hands her a briefcase that Clementine dropped earlier on his way out. Honeydew heads to Hog City but just shortly after getting off the train, a passing cat steals the briefcase and runs off with it. The cat, Lily, gets quickly apprehended by the police who open the briefcase and find melon seeds - in a town where melons are illegal. Honeydew must recover the briefcase and figure out the clues left behind by Clementine in order to find him, with the help of her loyal friends Strong Dog and Kitten Princess, as well as new friends she meets along the way.

We quickly learn that work conditions at Egaltine Industries are abysmal, for factory workers and office workers alike.

Melon Journey's monochromatic pixelated art style immediately stands out in its resemblance to games on the original Gameboy, but with a cleaner modern edge. It's pretty incredible how the visual palette is completely green, and it still feels like a dynamic and vibrant world - and it actually fits with the game's story. I'm honestly such a sucker for well-executed pixel art games, and this one really won me over. I generally don't address official art for a game that isn't featured in the game itself, but Melon Journey's deserves some attention. Promotional art for Melon Journey includes the characters in a 3D clay style that immediately evokes Earthbound and Mother 3. I expected this game to have a fitting 8-bit chiptune soundtrack, which it does, but it actually goes beyond that as well and includes some really interesting and beautiful unexpected songs. Unfortunately, as far as I can tell there's nowhere to purchase or listen to the soundtrack as of now - huge bummer, since I tend to always listen to the soundtrack for a game as I'm writing its review.

All the characters in Melon Journey besides Honeydew and Clementine are animals, and it is the kind of game where they actually address the fact that they're animals. On your quest, you meet a ton of goofy little animals - hamsters, mice, dogs, snakes, hedgehogs, and more. Talking to every character in this game, every time you see them, is actually worthwhile because of how fresh and funny the writing is. It properly feels like a game that was made in 2023, without using very on-the-nose references that won't age as well. During her adventure, Honeydew finds herself involved with rebellious characters in Hog Town, from the "Cavity Crew" to the bad-boy teenager named BIGDADDY. Despite the silly and lighthearted sense of humor, there is a layer of grim realism in the story, seen in the way that citizens are treated and oppressed in this town. The illegality of melons makes it easy for powerful people to frame others in order to control and manipulate the community.

I love Ocean Pup!! That's all!!

Melon Journey's gameplay is basically just dialogue and exploration, with the occasional quest to solve. There's no combat or real puzzle portions. I originally expected some sort of turn-based RPG like Earthbound, but honestly, I liked what I got better. I think it does enough with its story, characters, and world to keep the exploration alone interesting. The game's pace and freedom made me feel motivated to talk to every character and completely every sidequest, in order to learn more about them. There's just two achievements that I missed, one due to the fact that I accidentally progressed the story without talking to every character around, but I felt that I completed the game in such a way that I got to really uncover all the storylines pretty well. I learned recently that the developer, Froach Club, made a short RPGmaker game named Melon Journey way back in 2012. I've actually seen some people refer to Bittersweet Memories as "Melon Journey 2", but I had no idea when I first played it. I don't think you need to know anything about the previous game in order to enjoy Bittersweet Memories, but it definitely made me interested to check out the original game.

I hate to say it, but the stinky teenager has a point.

Melon Journey: Bittersweet Memories is a delightful and charismatic game that had me wanting to explore every corner of its world and talk to every character I met multiple times. It felt wholesome and empowering in its story: helping people who are taken advantage of by the powerful and greedy. The game's ending definitely left me wishing for a sequel in the future. It's a memorable game that constantly had me chuckling, and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys creative, quirky story-based games. It's also a perfect game to play handheld for a dose of nostalgia for a different era of gaming.

Melon Journey: Bittersweet Memories is available on PC, Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S

Played on: PC (Steam Deck)

Last Played: 7/9/2023

Playtime: 5.5 hrs

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