Like most genres, the puzzle platformer has seen an ebb and flow. What seemed like a trickle of games in the past few years with titles like Ancients of Ooga, Cloning Clyde, and Topatoi has turned into a torrent with games like Ethan: Meteor Hunter, Munin and Tiny Brains all released in the last two years. With so many in such a short period of time, it would be easy to think that games in the genre, like So Many Me, would get lost in the shuffle. Luckily, it does so many things right that it might stand out in the sea of recent puzzle platformers.
If you're looking for a story, it exists, but it doesn't play out as expected. You are Filo, a gelatinous creature that just woke up from a dream and is feeling hungry. On his way to get some food, he runs into a ghost named Asimov who tells him he's been chosen for a grand adventure. Wasting no time, Filo jumps into a magical pool and wakes up to find out that his clones litter the land. With his clones, Filo embarks on his grand adventure.
The basic premise might play out like any number of platformers, but the story progression doesn't take itself too seriously. Most of that can be attributed to Filo, who often breaks the fourth wall when he recognizes the genre tropes but rushes headlong into things without waiting for an explanation. It's more cute than annoying, since his reactions are more humorous than naive or rude. The same goes for the enemies and all his clones, who take on their own personalities but stay on a humorous path with their dialogue. Each line elicits a chuckle and serves as a great motivator to keep going just to see the next bit.
Alone, Filo performs like any other platforming character. He can jump at a decent height and distance, and his method of dispatching enemies is to repeatedly stomp on their heads. He's also rather fragile, so one hit from any enemy or spike can end his life. Once you get at least one copy on your side, you can turn one copy of Filo into a stone platform, and that ability gets a wide variety of uses, from acting as floating platforms to becoming a shield for incoming ordnance. It's the ability you'll use the most, especially when you get more of your clones or alternate transformations between two copies.
Transforming your copies into stone blocks is nice, but the game provides more powers. Most of those powers come from plants that give one of your copies a one-time use ability, depending on the color of the ingested plant. Blue plants, for example, give you the power to transform into a boxing glove that pushes objects in an upward trajectory and acts as a balloon for others to ride on. Red plants create trampolines for objects to bounce on, and yellow plants turn one of your copies into a light source. In addition to the plants, you have special cutouts that you can mimic to summon rideable creatures like a giant lizard, a jelly tank, and a bird, each with their own powers.
All of those things come in handy when you encounter some of the obstacles in the game's five major worlds. Some are easy to deal with, such as the drones that pace back and forth or the space dogs that only attack when they see you. Others pose more of a danger, such as the stationary turrets that fire in straight lines or the ones that automatically lock on to you when you get within range. Then there are those, like the plants that spew pollen that prevents you from transforming. Then, of course, you have the environmental hazards, such as the rows of spikes and bottomless pits.
What makes them all so devious is how they're combined to create puzzles. A jumping puzzle could come in the form of a series of bouncing mushrooms that take you across long spike pits and puts you within range of the laser-guided turrets. Another puzzle has you trying to get across a bottomless pit by doing an alternating rock transformation sequence only to get stumped at the end by a pollen cloud. Others have you trying to bounce bullets to open doors or turn on fans, so you can float above pits while hoping you don't hit lightning clouds that'll pop your boxing glove. Sequence after sequence has you scratching your head about the solution, and death due to a mistimed jump or botched transformation sequence is a frequent thing.
Interestingly, the difficulty level is dependent on your actions. The more devious puzzles are saved for the collectibles, which are often placed in tricky places. Most of the collectibles provide some benefits, such as having an extra clone at your disposal, new moves, or currency to buy those new moves. Only the bonus costumes could be considered superfluous, but they can help identify specific clones. None of these collectibles are necessary for completing the level, and you'll often find that the easiest puzzles in each stage are the ones that lead you to the exit with minimal fuss. They're still challenging, but they are less mind-boggling compared to the puzzles that hide the extra material.
Whether you're faced with easy or difficult puzzles, So Many Me remains fun throughout. The game also remains fun due to the liberties it provides to minimize your frustration. You can pan around the 2-D map at any time to see the entire level, and you can see exactly where each extra piece is tucked away. Death may be a constant thing, but lives are unlimited, and checkpoints are generous enough that you won't repeat too many steps to get back to where you perished. Furthermore, all of the collected items remain with you after you die, and almost all of the defeated enemies stay dead when you return. The reduction in frustration does wonders for maintaining the game's enjoyment.
If you're looking for negative points on the title, there really aren't too many. It is heavily recommended that you play the game with a control pad, but you can get away with using the keyboard as long as you're able to put up with the control scheme. Without the ability to customize those keys, the game can feel limiting. Also, while the puzzles in each level are brilliant, the boss fights are less thrilling. Only a few sections of each fight can be considered exciting, as the bosses have predictable patterns with barely any spots for ingenuity in combat. They can pose a bit of a challenge, but overall, the boss encounters aren't the high points of the game.
From a graphical perspective, So Many me is beautiful. The overall style is very cartoon-like, with a wide spectrum of bright colors being used in concert with some decent effects. The lack of faces on most of the characters doesn't prevent them from exhibiting some emotion, as both allies and enemies effortlessly look adorable. The animations are very smooth, and although they don't reach the level of fluidity seen in the likes of the Rayman series, they come off better than most titles that attempt a vibrant look. The frame rate is also buttery smooth, but there were a few levels where it dropped significantly. Thankfully, the drop was momentary and didn't occur outside of the initial entry into the new environment.
As far as the sound is concerned, it's rather good. The music may not be completely memorable, but it suits each situation nicely. It is neither morose nor completely lighthearted, but the production values are rather high and make for a perfect sonic companion. The effects, in contrast, are more fanciful and strive to sound more cute than menacing. This is especially true of the turrets, with gunfire and explosions that sound like cork guns rather than something more menacing. As for voices, you aren't going to get much beyond singular grunts when someone's dialogue pops up on-screen, but at least those grunts match the personalities of each character based on their names and lines.
In the end, So Many Me is a puzzle platformer that works on so many levels. It has a charming cast of characters that are bolstered by a beautiful presentation and some funny dialogue. The range of puzzles rides a fine balance between elementary and impossible, and the wide variety of goals ensures that players of all skill levels can complete this title. As long as you accept the fact that failure will come often, you'll enjoy this great puzzle platformer.
More articles about So Many Me