Developer: Extend Studio
Publisher: ORiGO GAMES
Played on: PC
Release Date: July 17, 2014
Time Played (Steam): 8.5 hours
Played With: Steam Controller
Appearances can be deceiving, and this is certainly the case with So Many Me. Despite its cartoonish appearance and cast of cute and cuddly characters, what lies beneath the surface is a truly difficult, occasionally maddening puzzle-platformer. As an adorable green jelly blob named Filo, you suddenly find yourself in a world requiring saving; you know how these things go. Luckily, he quickly comes across a small green egg that hatches into a duplicate of him. Discovering that the clone mimics his every move, Filo sets out on his journey, discovering new clones (the “Me”), interesting powers, and an assortment of enemies along the way.
At its core, So Many Me uses simple puzzle-platforming mechanics: running, jumping, defeating enemies, and collecting various items to open up paths to the exit and collectibles. The twist comes in with the “Me”, which take on a “Lemmings”-esque role; I swear this isn’t a comparison I got from the Steam store page. Their most basic function is to transform into stone blocks at the press of a button. This power on its own gives a great deal of freedom; by quickly turning one “Me” to stone, jumping, recalling the first “Me”, and turning it to stone again, you can quickly traverse most environments. Getting used to this movement pattern can take a while, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be effortlessly navigating levels.To change things up, other powers for the “Me” are introduced along the way: red “Me”s turn into bouncy platforms, blue ones turn into a rocket-powered boxing glove (I don’t get it either) that you can ride to high places, and yellow ones glow brightly to attract the attention of enemies. Some of these powers end up having other clever uses in some of the game’s puzzles: red “Me”s can also bounce enemy bullets to deflect them into other enemies or destructible terrain, and blue “Me”s can push certain obstacles around, opening up new paths.
The main complication is that each “special” “Me” power is single-use. You obtain them by walking over coloured goo balls in the levels, however the goo ball won’t replenish until you’ve used and recalled the “Me” that obtained its power. This turns each puzzle into a careful game of resource management, as you have to make sure that you’re setting up each “Me” in the right place, and only recalling them when you need to. There are also pollen-spewing flowers throughout most levels that restrict your “Me”s ability to transform. Additionally, since powers get applied to the first “Me” in your line, you often have to plan ahead. Say you need to get a red “Me” to bounce some turret bullets into another enemy. If the red goo ball is situated so that you have to use the stone block power to get there and back, you need to make sure to set up the blocks in advance, grab the red power, and then get into position without using a single “Me”. Otherwise, the very next “Me” you activate will turn into a bouncy red trampoline, and you’ll have to recall it and start over.This system is one that can be a bit hit-or-miss. It works quite well to make the puzzles that much more complicated; you not only have to figure out WHAT you need to do, but HOW you can execute it while still getting each “Me” in the proper position. Unfortunately, this means that sometimes you end up having to repeat puzzles just because you didn’t get a “Me” in quite the right place. In many cases, the game can be pretty forgiving: hitting a stone “Me” from any side will cause you to stick to it, and some of the platforms seem to have deliberately imprecise edges to make pixel-perfect precision less critical. However, there were still times where I had to repeat a puzzle two or three times because my red “Me” needed to be just a TINY bit lower, and the latter can also make you feel like you’re cheating the game sometimes, as you almost seem to glitch up into certain areas.
Speaking of “cheating” the game, there were also a couple of times where completing a puzzle felt more like luck, rather than skill and planning. Sometimes this would mean that a success came about thanks to the aforementioned imprecise terrain, or something similar. Other times, it meant that failure occurred simply because an enemy moved (or sometimes, didn’t) when I thought it would. In general, the checkpoint system can be quite forgiving, but a couple of puzzles wrapped around the level in such a way that the game deemed what amounted to a full reset to be an appropriate response to death. Plus, the game doesn’t clearly designate where the checkpoints are, so you kind of have to hope for the best when you die.
Level navigation also includes a few different “vehicles” that get introduced throughout the game. There’s an ADORABLE dinosaur costume, with squeaky footsteps and a tail whip attack that can break through weak walls. Then there’s an elephant-esque tank that can traverse spikes with no problem and fire shots that kill enemies, including the pollen flowers. Lastly, there’s a bird that can fly around and drop bombs to open up new paths. While each of these are only featured in a handful of levels, they do a good job of breaking things up. Plus, things quickly get complicated when you have to use different vehicles in tandem with the “Me”s powers to complete certain objectives. Again, planning ahead becomes critical, as any “Me”s that get into a vehicle can’t transform until you exit it.Each of So Many Me’s five worlds is closed out with a boss battle, and these are where the game really takes the focus away from the puzzling and into the skillful platforming. The bosses felt like huge difficulty spikes, partly because figuring out their weakness generally took some time, and partly because the majority of the game can be played at such a leisurely pace. However, whether you’re frantically avoiding attacks, constructing platforms to get you closer to a weak point, or just cowering in fear as you try to figure out the key to victory, each boss manages to be frustratingly fun. Some of them definitely had me getting into a bit of a rage, especially considering death comes in one hit, often causing you to restart the whole fight. Despite this, they still managed to keep me in the “one more try” mentality, particularly once I knew how to beat them, and my skill was the only limiting factor.
Outside of the main level set, there are a few other diversions. Progression through the main game unlocks some “Clock Tower” levels that can be accessed from the world hub. These strip away everything you have, forcing you to complete complex platforming challenges with extremely limited resources. They’re a great way to test your proficiency with the game’s mechanics, though admittedly, I quickly gave up on most of them.
There’s also an “upgrade” system, which allows you to spend rings that you obtain to unlock “bonus features” of sorts. I found this system to be odd and a bit lacking, since many of the descriptions for the unlockables are vague. Plus, some of them are purely cosmetic (e.g. making Filo do a little flip when he jumps), while others end up being almost vital to the completion of later puzzles (e.g. granting immunity to bullets). Still others actually make the game harder, like making certain enemies stronger or more difficult to kill. It can be maddening to spend some of your hard-earned rings on an “upgrade”, only to discover that it’s something that has either no impact, or worse, a negative impact on the experience.Rings can also be spent to unlock costumes, and this is where the game’s collectibles truly shine. There are dozens of costumes for you to collect, both by finding them in levels and by purchasing them in the shop. While none of them have any effect on the “Me” they’re applied to, they add a welcome bit of customization to the game. Want to have an army of fez-wearing “Me”s? Go for it. Want some with bows and lipstick, while others are robots and pandas? Just find the right costume bags! The outfits range from adorable to creepy, with a number drawing inspiration from other popular indie games like Blocks That Matter and Dust: An Elysian Tail. These ended up being my main motivation for wanting to hunt down all the collectibles, since being able to assign each “Me” its own costume allows you to grant each its own “personality” in a way. It’s rather nice, considering the game only characterizes a handful of them.
“Personality” is something that the game just oozes, though. All the characters are lovingly drawn and animated, and it often seems like almost everything in the levels is in motion somehow. From the wiggling of the “Me”s legs as they walk to the sound effects of each jump, bounce, and even death, this entire game made me feel like my heart was melting. The levels are bright and colourful, while not ending up so busy that you get lost in the action, and the boss designs are intimidating, while still managing to be charming. Even the story, simplistic as it is (and with a few grammatical errors here and there) manages to give the whole thing a light-hearted, childlike feel. This really seems like the kind of game that I would have loved as a kid.Thankfully, though, So Many Me’s tough puzzles and varied gameplay mean that it can just as easily appeal to more seasoned gamers. In fact, some may be turned off by the level of challenge in later areas, though it’s nice that many of the truly difficult puzzles are reserved for the optional collectibles. Regardless, it manages to lure you in with its veneer of cuteness, before putting you through the wringer with its myriad of complex challenges. If you think you’re up to the task, joining Filo on his adventure is well worth it.