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imprint-X

Score: 83%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Morgondag
Developer: Morgondag
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Puzzle/ Classic/Retro/ Strategy

Graphics & Sound:

We were fans of the last game this studio produced, the minimal space adventure RymdResa, so we welcomed the news of their newest joint, imprint-X. The legacy that developer Morgondag seems intent on leaving is to jam tons of fresh gameplay into a very retro setting, and it totally works. Itís of course on trend to create new 8- and 16-bit games, which means there are all level of quality out there. One thing we liked about imprint-X is that it shows off great appreciation for color, to the point that recognizing color plays a role in solving some of the gameís puzzles. Thereís also a strong focus on matching shapes and sizes, and symmetry is a strong force behind multiple puzzles.

The music is a nice blend of driving electronic themes and ambient background tones, relatively well-matched to the action on screen. Sound itself plays a role in solving puzzles, but weíd still say that conquering imprint-X is more about following visual patterns and movement than sound. The character you play doesnít have a real speaking role, but will give you some indication of success or failure depending on your actions. The entire aesthetic here is retro but futuristic at the same time; a bit like a distant future where the '80s survived intact.


Gameplay:

If we told you we were building a button-pushing game you might think we were talking about something for preschool-age children, and we wouldnít blame you. Itís a really strange concept that we came to love, and itís both more and less complicated than it sounds. The story premise for the game is a bit obscure in itself, but comes down to a girl rescuing her friends from a robotic plague. To get into the gameís various puzzles she suits up in what looks like a VR headset and prepares to go to war against the robots.

Except thereís no war, just you pushing a ton of buttons. Some you push fast, some you push slow, and others you canít push unless you do it in a certain order. If this description still leaves you feeling really skeptical, trust us when we say itís awesome. The thing is, imprint-X starts off slow and builds up to a point where it becomes plenty challenging, both in a "hurts my brain" kind of way and in a sometimes-twitchy kind of way. Itís proof positive that sometimes a strange sales pitch is exactly what we need to keep fresh ideas flowing. The flow of the game follows the girl as she works through puzzle after puzzle to free her friends, each time ending with what passes for a boss battle in this cool but strange game formula.


Difficulty:

Youíll definitely play through the first few levels with a, "Are they serious?" sentiment, but thereís plenty of challenge on the way. The buttons you push cause elements of each stage to move or morph. Sometimes this triggers or unlocks other parts of the level, generally uncovering new buttons. Thereís a life bar (or a sanity/health meter?) that will increase as you push the correct buttons, and decrease as you donít. Part of the challenge is acting quickly and decisively and another part is judging which buttons to push first, and which sequence of buttons is correct.

imprint-X gives you very little coaching. You figure out as you play more when thereís a blinking sequence of lights, that correlates to a sequence of buttons. Pretty obvious, right? But when thereís a geometric arrangement that emerges out of your button pushes, whoís to say whatís right or wrong? As best we could tell, there are some puzzles that are truly just about aesthetics. You canít experiment endlessly, but you can replay levels to improve your time and eliminate wrong choices. imprint-X can be especially frustrating during longer boss battles where things get twitchier. This especially may surprise people whoíre only coming to this expecting a casual puzzle game, but in fact it doesnít have to be as twitchy as it might seem at first.


Game Mechanics:

In so many respects, mobile seems like the only platform worth playing imprint-X on, because the idea of pushing a button with your finger seems like the most natural thing ever. The only downside we saw quickly was that the act of positioning your finger can block the screen, which then obscures some important information you need. As youíre expected to do timed presses later in the game, this becomes more of a big deal. It was a noticeable handicap at those times, but mostly not a big deal. The payoff of not having any heavy graphics is that imprint-X looks fantastic on any size screen.

Keeping things simple and focusing on a slow progression of harder puzzles that revolve around pushing buttons is a crazy idea for a game, but it totally works. Rather than layer on all kinds of gimmicky features that (letís be honest) most free-to-play games just introduce so they can charge money, imprint-X stays true to its premise and manages to build an impressive array of variations on the button-pushing theme. When so many casual puzzle games feel like copies of other successful formulas, itís really great to see something completely novel. Give this one a try if you like cerebral puzzlers and retro gaming, you wonít be disappointed.


-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

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