As far as I know the premise behind The Mimic is unique. A hostile life form mimics your every move as you navigate through a dangerous, puzzle-filled environment. The creature kills you if you get too close. Using some unexplained black magic or alien fairy dust, its well being is linked to your own, so if it dies, you die. A nifty concept, but my concern was whether this very simple idea would sustain an entire game. It did, but only just.
Should you buy it
If you like the sound of the Steam description or my breakdown here you should buy it. I don’t remember the last time a game delivered so precisely what the marketing blurb promised. It does exactly what it says on the tin. Nothing more but certainly nothing less.
If you enjoy a puzzly challenge and the mimic gimmick appeals to you, go for it. By contrast if the concept doesn’t quite feel like your cup of tea, the game probably lacks the charm to sway you and I suggest you give it a miss.
If you do decide to buy, wait for a sale. More on that later.
You’re the head of engineering in what I assume is a terraforming station on a distant exoplanet. The titular mimic, a nasty native predator, has escaped containment and wiped out the rest of the crew. Revolutionary storytelling it ain’t, but it does the job.
From your very first steps around the 2D platforming environment, the mimic is right there with you taking the same steps at the same time. Effectively you control both characters simultaneously, although the mimic is unable to jump. It stays put while the engineer leaps into the air assisted by fancy jet-propelled boots.
The goal of each area is to reach the exit while avoiding the mimic as well as keeping both it and your protagonist alive. It’s a great foundation.
The Mimic is more puzzler than platformer. Developers Silhouette Wolf obviously had a clear idea of where they wanted the game to sit on that spectrum. They found the perfect balance. There’s not much worse in the gaming world, nay, the world in general, than a ridiculously intricate platforming section ‘seamlessly integrated’ into a game whose control scheme is utterly unsuited to it. If you were unfortunate enough to experience the first-person platforming joys of Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, you know the horror.
That’s not to say you’ll neglect your jump button in The Mimic. In fact you’re required to leap all over the place, often with precision. But the game’s real challenge is rarely based on hand-eye coordination.
The puzzles, then, are a key component. Thankfully I found them to be enjoyable and rewarding for the most part. Early areas explore basic concepts like trapping the mimic against a wall so that you can move the engineer in isolation. Gradually the game introduces extra features to complicate things, from deadly security lasers and drones to items that reverse the movement of either the mimic or the engineer.
Oh, and teleporters. Those damned teleporters. Somewhere towards the middle of the single-player mode, the puzzles become heavy-handed. These aren’t painstakingly crafted brain-teasers. One of them is just a total clusterf… fudge. A clusterfudge of teleporters and switches. All of the teleporters look identical. They give no indication of where they lead or which character is able to use them. My only option was to wade into the thick of it as many times as necessary to stumble my way through. This level, like several others, is far from elegant.
Still, the majority of the puzzles are well thought-out and show a level of maturity in their design, especially towards the end. That’s where I felt the engagement and immersion I’d been hoping for when I downloaded the game. Instead of cursing the developers’ haphazard teleporter placement, I found myself praising them for their sneaky misdirections and respecting them as some kind of silent adversary.
In terms of difficulty, the experience falls just a little short. Checkpoints are abundant to say the least, and the respawn time is instantaneous. So death in this game is about as scary as the mimic itself. Which is to say, hilariously unscary.
Besides the frustrating struggle of those teleporter-heavy labyrinths, the levels never get really perplexing. I prefer puzzle games to err on the side of too difficult. The Mimic leans the other way. There’s enough challenge in later levels to make victory genuinely gratifying but seasoned puzzlers looking for some kind of gaming Gordian knot will be unsatisfied.
At this point I have to bring up ‘game feel’. It’s a vague but important concept, worth reading about here if you’re unfamiliar. Essentially it’s about the enjoyment you get from simply moving around a game environment. The Mimic doesn’t have great game feel.
Nintendo gave Mario genuine weight. He accelerates into a run and alters his stride to gain stability after landing a jump. Nuances like these contribute to a satisfying, immersive experience. It’s more fun to control a character that feels solid. Real. The Mimic’s engineer reaches top speed instantaneously, jumps without a bend of the knees, and generally just kind of floats around.
To be fair it’s not a broken control system. It’s perfectly functional. I’m a sensitive snowflake when it comes to game feel and even I forgot about it once the puzzles became difficult enough to distract me. I just felt a little bit more like I was controlling a human-shaped cursor around the levels than a real person, which noticeably detracts from the experience.
The right fluff
It’s pretty clear from the start of the The Mimic that the developers just had a good idea for a puzzle game and wanted to create it. Which is fine by me. The inconvenient truth is that generally you need some kind of context to give some cohesion to any game, even a puzzler. So Silhouette Wolf added a bit of the ol’ narrative fluff; the right type and the right amount.
There’s precious little visual variety in the game, so your progress is instead indicated in words on workstations scattered around the levels. Your crewmates helpfully logged their mimic-related discoveries prior to their mimic-related demise, which at least adds a modest sprinkle of storyline. The entries get straight to the point with very little in the way of flowery exposition and philosophical reflection. You could see this as a missed opportunity to add emotion to the game, but I was relieved. I came here to puzzle, not to read.
Luckily for Silhouette Wolf we don’t factor price into our final scores here at OGG. After all if money is no object for you it’s all but irrelevant. Alright for some, eh?
However it is worth mentioning that I finished the single-player mode in around four hours. I might go through it again in a year or two but really the replay value is limited. I threw down 11 of my Great British pounds for the pleasure, which is a touch pricey.
There are a couple of other welcome game modes though, most notably the local co-op. Here you’ll find a fair few specially made levels for a party of two. You each control an engineer and have your own mimic copying your movements. It’s a whole new experience and genuinely good fun.
The time trial features just four short levels, each with a bronze, silver and gold target time plus the developers’ personal best. I had some fun trying (and failing) to beat the devs but overall this one’s just a forgettable mini game.
Finally there’s the level editor, which I’m surprised to find isn’t mentioned once on the store page. Currently the available construction pieces are quite limited but the developers seem to be referring to this as a beta version of the editor.
In any case, you don’t need a massive array of blocks to create some really clever puzzles. I intend to whip up some absolutely infuriating levels of doom and force them upon as many loved ones as possible.
You could theoretically sink tens of hours into the level editor but realistically I don’t see the average player getting more than about eight hours out of the entire Mimic package. So buy it on sale.
Available from: Steam