After my first short session with So Many Me, a game I received free for being an Xbox live subscriber, I figured I’d never play it again.
Well, it has a cutesy story that is neither cute nor funny and is trying a bit too hard. The gameplay gimmick, that you control an army of “ME’s” that turn into blocks you can then use as platforms didn’t seem enough to base a platformer around. And worst of all, the movement felt imprecise and floaty, which is sort of the death-knell for a good platformer — control is king. On top of all this, the graphic style reminded me of old newgrounds/flash games and just felt sort of cheap.
But I wasn’t really sure what game to play next (and it’s a mild tic for me to always have a book or game lined up to follow the next one or face mild panic), so I decided to give So Many Me another chance. It then completely absorbed me, was a joy to play, and over the next few days I 100% completed it.
Because, while So Many Me is ostensibly a platformer, what becomes clear after the first few levels is that is primarily a really inventive and well designed puzzle game. The game takes a few simple principles:
- ME’s can turn into blocks that can be used as platforms, hold down switches, block bullets.
- ME’s can eat special fruit to turn into trampolines, enemy attracting bait, or automatically rising platforms; these all have secondary puzzle-solving traits.
- You can only un-transform ME’s back to their normal state (to use again) in the reverse order you used them — so, last one first.
- ME’s die very easily (100% clocked me just shy of 3000 dead ME’s), but checkpoints are extremely lenient.
That’s it. There’s like 4 or 5 enemy types. But the game combines these features together again and again in novel, interesting, and challenging ways. The levels are not all that long but you will use their entire breadth to pull off a complicated solution to a puzzle — ME’s will be littered across several screens serving as platforms for you to jump across and holding down just the right switches for you to then rapidly dissemble into a new set of platforms before all the enemies you were keeping trapped with blocks and switches swarm you before you can reach the treasure you sought.
I became more forgiving of the controls, and eventually found the visual style charming (though never the story). Even then, when the game gets into full platformer-mode, it is not at its best. All of the bosses require rote memorization to manage the set of tasks and path you must form to defeat them. There’s precise platformer setups you must perform after you’ve carefully organized all your ME’s in a very specific pattern, and if the controls don’t stick the way you expected, it’s maddening to re-create the puzzle solution again.
But, all said: Great game.