Hot on the heels of the wonderfully melancholy meditation on solitary space exploration, RymdResa, comes the second game from two person Swedish design team, Morgondag. Well, hot on the heels is a bit of an exaggeration, but the year and a half break between releases has been worth the wait. Imprint-X is an entirely different kind of game but still manages to evoke many of the same feelings of isolation and loneliness as RymdResa. Not bad for a puzzle game about pushing buttons.
Underneath a domed city on an asteroid, a giant robot head releases a swarm of bugs that infest the population with mind-controlling nano-viruses. Players take the role of a hacker clone (or one of the surviving hacker clones if the production line in the intro is to be believed), whose job it is to save the intellectuals of the city from the nano-virus by decoding the individual infections. This is done by clicking buttons. Seriously. That’s really the only interacting in the game, but that one simple action has surprising depth in the 100 puzzles that make up Imprint-X.
Puzzle design varies depending on the level or the branching path taken in a level. Some puzzles are like Simon Says or Memory, with players having to remember sequences of flashing lights so as to hit buttons in the right order, while others take a more geometric path, with the buttons rotating or otherwise moving shapes that have to be somehow joined together to complete the level. Other puzzles resemble tracks or simple machines and pressing buttons in the right order or the right number of times activates the next part of the machine. There are also boss battles that require not only timing but accuracy when it comes to clicking, as the buttons move swiftly on a predetermined path and the player must click on them a set number of times while it is in the target zone. Some puzzles have time limits, but all have a hard click limit, with the number of clicks available essentially being the hacker’s health bar. Click too many times and you have to start the level all over again. Get part of the puzzle completed and you’re rewarded with a few points of health and a few more clicks. It’s a simple but moreish cycle.
There’s a pleasant awkwardness and iciness to the presentation of Imprint-X. The pixel art protagonist is a prototypical introvert, cloistered first in a cloning pod then in a corner of the screen hiding behind VR goggles. The nano-virus puzzles are masses of simple shapes rendered in neon colours. The soundtrack deserves special mention. The fantastic synth score is entirely fitting with the action on screen but still wouldn’t seem out of place in a Nicolas Winding Refn film. The isolated soundtrack is available on steam and will probably be on high rotation in the office.
While not necessarily as memorable as RymdResa, Imprint-X is still a very enjoyable followup. We’re definitely keen to see what sad, lonely and lovely game Morgondag come up with next.