Saturday, January 3, 2015

Imagine Me - Thoughts

After buying the most recent Humble Weekly Bundle, I decided to check out what games came paired with it. I primarily nabbed the bundle for Ittle Dew, but wasn't quite prepared for how cool and sleek MURI was. Bardbarian was an interesting concept that got too grindy too quick (and fit the phone better than the PC), and so all that was left... was Imagine Me.

Imagine Me looks cute but is one of the worst playing games I've experienced in a long time.

While the pastel look screams "adorable" and the theme that plays over the solemn title screen is pleasing, everything else falls apart once you jump in. There's primarily two different modes in the game—Campaign, which features an infinite number of randomly generated levels with story segments spliced in-between, and the Challenge mode, which is a set of 36 single-room maps. I'll note here that even after obtaining all of the story vignettes, there really isn't much substance you can draw from tangle of random imagery. Unless I missed the relevance of what a car crash, archery class, girl cousin, dead dog and teacher singing have to do with each other, the narrative seems to be wholly untied to the game.

The campaign mode serves as the great illustration for how randomly generated levels can be put together poorly. It has a similar four-floor layout like Spelunky but rather than stitching together distinct sections, it's more or less a hodgepodge of objects and enemies. While traversing the patchwork scenery, you'll soon realize how clunky the game is: the hitboxes on spikes are enormous, enemies and blocks take too long to disappear after getting hit, the single arrow pickups are pointless compared to the equally-distributed five arrow pickups, keys are overabundant, and crates serve no purpose other than to block your way. Outside of the monotone bosses, you will have experienced everything the game has to offer in the first level, so there's almost nothing of value past the first five minutes.

However, the greatest offender comes from the challenge mode. While the randomly generated levels are awkward and shallow, the challenge mode puts your patience to the test. Right off the bad level 1-2 is the hardest of the bunch, featuring an assortment of pointy spike-shooters strewn about the room, each of which fires projectiles independently of one another (so good luck looking for a pattern). Trying to make it to the exit in this one area is a massive battle, as even your arrows fail to kill the single enemy placed into the arena (arrows which use up those you've collected in the campaign for some bizarre reason). After this heinous struggle, you'll ride a roller coaster of difficulty—you can beat 2-12 by just holding right down the whole time, while 3-8...

In 3-8, all of the projectiles are set into the background (and is the only level that does this), only giving you a small window in which you can see them. There's a spike shooter above you at the start so you'll die pretty quickly before you have an idea of what's going on. To make matters worse, there's spike shooters above the exit, and since the fade out to death is quicker than the level-complete fade out, you can touch the exit but the LEVEL FAILED! sign will always pop up first. There's numerous examples of how the game is poorly designed embedded within the game itself: you don't actually pause when you go to the menu (meaning that you can die in the options menu), after quitting a challenge you're taken back to the main menu rather than the challenge menu, your character can move during the game over screen in the campaign, and the tutorial screen always pops up before levels. I can't believe all of these simple issues were overlooked.

I've played games with wonky physics like Defy Gravity before, but at least that game had an interesting mechanic to it. Imagine Me is something that feels like it was designed by an artist that didn't quite know how to make a good game, or didn't care by the time it was finished. Granted, there's much worse out there on Steam, but I was quite surprise to receive this in the same bundle that MURI and Ittle Dew came in; I really should've spent my time playing those instead.

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