Imagine Me attempts to pick up the hardcore platformer gauntlet from games such as Super Meat Boy and I Wanna be the Guy and while it manages to emulate some of what makes those games so special, it still has a long way to go to match their intense greatness. While some things can be forgiven due to the fact that the game is in Alpha, I can’t help but get the feeling that Imagine Me should be in much better shape at this point than it is. But that’s not to say there is nothing to like.
The game is being developed by KinifiGames and although it was successfully funded in 2011, development has only really ramped up in the last six months, leading to its recent release into Early Access on Steam. Imagine Me tells the story of Robbie and his struggle to reclaim his lost memories in a 2D spike-filled world and also promises a non-linear story, randomised dungeons, puzzles, bosses and collectables. Many of these features are yet to be added, or are only partly complete but in a move I personally find most admirable in a developer, KinifiGames give a clear detailing of development progress on their Steam Store page.
As soon as I watched the teaser trailer for Imagine Me it was clear that the developers were keen to instill the game with a rich atmosphere and to this end, the brief soundtrack works wonderfully well. Both the track used in the trailer and the main menu theme are moody but also pleasant and relaxing. Levels only have sounds of foreboding ambience in place of a full soundtrack and I sincerely hope this changes with more music being added in a future build. Sound effects at this point are fairly rough and I can only hope that they are place-holders and will be improved as development progresses.
Visually, Imagine Me employs a retro art style which is commonplace in the Indie scene while still managing to retain its own personality. The minimalist approach and some of the puzzle design reminds me of 2012’s Thomas was Alone and a few games which came before, but the look and feel of the levels, replete with spike covered walls, are highly reminiscent of the retro stages in Super Meat Boy, and that can’t be a bad thing. The main protagonist is well designed and the character animations have a nicely hand-drawn look and are suitably adorable in a tiny pixelly kind of way.
The majority of the handful of levels which are playable at this point are fairly basic and none took me more than a few attempts to beat. Each one is simply a case of reaching the doorway unharmed. However, my efforts were thwarted somewhat by a couple of glaring problems with the gameplay.
Firstly, most levels heavily feature many small yellow trampolines for reaching higher platforms. While at first glance this may seem simple and intuitive, the reality is far more frustrating. No matter how hard I tried to figure it out, there seems to be no real system to decide how high you will bounce once you’ve jumped onto a trampoline. I was sent flying to my doom many times and had to rely on luck alone to get me through some of the stages. Does it depend on how hard the button is pressed? Nope. Is it related to the angle or height you jump onto it from? Doesn’t seem like it. If there is a way to control this then it has evaded me, but if what I suspect is true, then it is simply a case of sloppy control coding.
Secondly, the controls as a whole really need to be tightened up. In a game like the sort Imagine Me aspires to be, where pixel-perfect precision is absolutely necessary, if the controls and response to player actions aren’t exactly right, the game will not be satisfying to play.
The puzzle elements in Imagine Me are nothing new but still work well and are fun to figure out. Most consist of a few blocks which can be pushed around or a scattering of keys and locks to be opened. While simple, the puzzles serve to add a little diversity to gameplay and make it more interesting than just being a case of traversing from one side of a level to the other.
In terms of story, there isn’t really much to go on apart from the brief synopsis on the Steam Store page telling us that Robbie must ‘face his darkest fears’ and ‘reclaim his memories’. There is currently little progression in the game and absolutely zero narrative. The main menu features thumbnails of the few levels you can play, click one and complete it, move on to the next, and that’s it. Randomised dungeons are promised to be implemented in the next few builds, so the nature of the overall structure of the game at this point is uncertain.
Imagine Me, despite the aforementioned problems and severe lack of content, is still very enjoyable to play and that bodes extremely well for this little Indie platformer. It’s a bit of a conundrum.
On the one hand we have a game which is far from complete, has core control problems in its current state and has many unimplemented features, and on the other we have a highly promising, fun, challenging and intriguing hardcore platform puzzler. Assuming the game reaches its full potential and the current problems are smoothed out, Imagine Me might just turn out great enough to gain a dedicated fanbase that will likely spawn all manner of crazy speed-run videos on YouTube.
As it stands, however, and going back to my earlier point, Imagine Me doesn’t feel like it’s even ready for Early Access. It’s the bare bones of what could turn out to be a fantastic game, but what could also amount to very little. Unless you really want to give your cash right now to support the development of Imagine Me, I’d recommend holding out for a little while before deciding whether or not to make the purchase.