Format reviewed: Switch eShop
Other formats available: exclusive
Developer: Wish Fang
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Website: Official Website
"If there were another me,
Observing myself from the perspective of a spectator,
How would I regard another me?
How would I get along with the other me?"
I and Me tries to get to grips with these pretentious philosophical conundrums through the power of puzzle platforming.
The player must control two on-screen cats simultaneously, coordination is the key. Both cats will perform the exact same action as the other from the limited move-set on hand. Left and Right movement with either the D-Pad or Left Analogue Stick, jump the same height each time with the A button, and much later in the game the B button is employed to throw an object. All movement can be controlled via the Joy-Cons and the Pro Controller. There is, however, zero implementation of the touch screen, not even to select a level in the main menu, and even more shockingly, for such a simple button interface requirement, no single Joy-Con usage. Simple controls for a simple game.
The goal of each level is to move both of the cats into a picture frame at the same time. Each cat must occupy one of the two frames, and the other cat, the other frame. Doing so, triggers a 3-4 second loading screen and a philosophical quotation upon the pursuit of friendship, loneliness and the existence of self. But getting the two cats into the separate frames requires manipulation. For example, positioning one cat behind a wall, will allow one cat to move and the other to stay in place, therefore allowing the player to create more, or less, space between the cats as required. Things get more complicated with the addition of moving enemies, switches for spike traps and moving platforms, a drop-able lantern that obscures the darkness of the winter, and magic wands that allow one of your cats to move in the opposite direction of the other. Fortunately, the movement of the cats is precise. At all times where failure occurs its down to the player's inadequacies, not botched controls.
Certain levels have scroll-like collectibles that elaborate on the 'story' a little further. The story is not really that. It is advertised as 'A profoundly deep story that expands with every level you complete', but it never lives up to that expectation. It progresses from making a new friend, to questioning its existence, the pursuit of loneliness after spending time together, and a cathartic reunion of shared interests. Very boring, very pretentious, and not at all enlightening, and all told through the power of between level text.
Die and the level restarts extremely quickly, from its beginning, meaning no long loading time between attempts that would otherwise lead to waiting time frustration. If however, you want to try a different level, it becomes more problematic. You'll have to return fully to the main menu, and the level select screen. With no touch screen support, the level select screen is so clunky and cumbersome. Each Season has its own page, but the player has to scroll through them all to get to what they want.
I and Me has a total of 92 levels to play through, these being broken up, visually and thematically, into four seasons. Starting in Spring and progressing through to winter, your year in the life of Schrodinger's cats starts extremely easily, teaching you the basics and adding different elements throughout the level progression. Some later puzzles are Rubick's Cube type mental affairs, whilst others can test the dexterity of the player's coordination and speed. However, at the mere press of the X button an incredibly handy (too handy at times) hint is shown to you. The hint resembles a flashback dream-like black and white visualisation of the entire level being played through, showing the player how to exactly complete said level. It's like an answer sheet at the back of a Math's Exercise Book, just try not to use the hints too liberally. Even with 92 levels at your disposal, most can be finished rather quickly, and in total about 2-3 hours of play time exist in I and Me.
The soundtrack of the game is soothing with orchestra and piano music, with each season having its own style. The main title theme is a haunting piano solo that hearkens to Vaughn Williams' play on the English countryside. Some beautifully lilting tunes here. Effects within the game are very generic and limited to meows upon death, crunching mechanisms for switches, and cute jump noises.
The art style is beautiful. When playing in handheld mode the vibrancy of the greens, lilacs, pinks and browns pop right off the screen. Floating dandelion seeds flutter past your vision. Everything is hand-drawn, warm and tranquil, evoking an English countryside in a beautiful warm dream you once had. Peter Rabbit, Wind in the Willows, and Winnie the Pooh all come to mind in the style of aesthetic rendered here. However, when blown up to the TV mode, the visuals are ever so muddied. The crispness and vibrancy of colour that evoked such sentimental longing is lessened, and therefore less effective.
I and Me has great visuals on Handheld Mode, some truly intriguing puzzling elements, but nothing that you haven't seen in this type of game before. Only recommended for players that enjoy this type of short-lived puzzle platformer.