Developer Psydra Games
Everyone wants me to review their games, which is great. I’ll be honest, however. Whenever someone sends me a platformer, my heart sinks. There are so many platformers and genuine innovation is relatively rare within the genre. Also, I’m not great at them. My family never really owned the classic consoles on which people spent their childhood practicing. I gave Mike Dies a try because I liked the minimalist art style and immediately knew this was a game I could enjoy. The levels are tiny and regular checkpoints alleviate frustration very successfully.
Why are the levels tiny? This is the tale of a man who’s fractured spaceship must be navigated through a convoluted network of teleporters. Design hinges on the idea that if any of Mike’s body parts are not contained within the teleporter when it triggers, he will die. I mean, presumably he could lose a finger and survive, but not his head. Indeed, many teleporters are too small to contain his more crucial body parts. If, by touching a thin teleporter in a tunnel, it has started to spool up, he will need to break bodily contact pretty quickly.
The story is told through dialogue, delivered as you play, and by using levels to stage metaphors. If a voice is telling you to run into oblivion, the level will continue forever, so it’s wise to pay attention to verbal cues. My favourite moment involved deciding whether to trust the instruction I was being given. As well as meeting characters like a client, angel, demon, and eye, Mike calls his partner, Gregory, to explain what has happened. If you enjoy games that widely represent people, these warm conversations thoughtfully depict a gay relationship.
So, is Mike Dies a game for people who can’t play platformers? Nope. I died more than a thousand times, but a speedrunner has completed this with ten deaths at the time of writing. Someone will do it with none, I just know it. In fact, this is a carefully crafted experience where every game element is precisely organised and timed. The fact that it’s broken into tiny chunks simply means it’s accessible. It’s also much larger than you’d initially think. That small teleporter you ran past ten times already? It’s actually just large enough for a guy. Stand in it.