The Company of Myself
I have to admit, I've never before played a game that so candidly displayed my sentiments on the preloader before. And for someone who's had the occasional introverted streak every now and again (such as myself), it won't be the last moment where a thought you've had is displayed on the screen. This is no run-of-the-mill puzzle game. No, this is a thoroughly psychological romp, equal parts replay-themed platformer and character study. This is The Company of Myself, from Eli Piilonen (Spewer) with artwork by Luka Marcetic and music by David Carney.
It all starts with a thought-provoking little monologue, fleshing out the protagonist and his mentality. Shortly afterwards, you're dropped into the game itself, where the controls are familiar to anyone remotely acquainted with the platform genre. Arrow keys get you from place to place, with [Up] for jumping and the [A] key for flipping switches. [P] or [Esc] will pause your game, and [R] will restart the current level, an action you'll get to know quite intimately before you're done. And then there's [Space], which starts out as the button that gets you through the green door at each level's end. However, a couple of challenges in, [Space] becomes a bit more interesting.
All of your actions (right up until you hit [Space]) are being recorded, as though by an invisible video camera. As soon as you reset the clock, the level starts anew, except now there's a phantasmal double of yourself scurrying about, re-enacting your first playthrough move for move. Press [Space] again, and add another one to the mix, this one also moving according to the steps you laid out. Some levels will place a restriction on the number of ghostly doppelgangers you can conjure, and these are the levels where you'll have to see just how adeptly you can work with...well, yourself.
Analysis: The first thing you'll notice is that a lot of this game is in the narrative. Ethereal white words coalesce in the background frequently, portraying the character's self-reflective musings. Much is said on the subjects of loneliness and how people cope, all framed within one man's story. I wasn't a tremendous fan of the ending, which puts things in perspective, but the character had me enticed throughout.
Oh, and the gameplay! We've all seen games in this vibe before (coulda sworn there was even a competition about it...), but this adventure does a great job of coming up with puzzles where you're truly forced to team up with your past incarnations. The funny moments are the ones where your timing wasn't split-second-perfect on your first run, and as your past self mistimes a switch-flip that sends you plummeting to your doom, you'll find yourself becoming quickly frustrated at...yourself? It's an odd sensation, but it's certainly in line with the themes of the game.
In terms of overall game length, it's not particularly long, and none of the levels (with a couple of near end-game toughies) ought to put up too much of a fight against your powerful, puzzle-trained mind. But if you were to get stuck on any level for too long, I'd think that would impede the monologue that reads alongside the entire affair, and that's against what the game designers would have wanted. It's a mighty fine platformer, a well-told story, and a fantastic distraction when you've got some time to enjoy the company of yourself for just a little while.