People always talk about their better half in some positive light, even if the term itself is a bit of a misnomer. Most of the time, the “better half” is usually another person – who is a spouse, best friend or fellow office member – that compliments the person through actions and thought that the speaker then views as necessary to their completion. Not one single person I’ve met meant their better half moved in tandem and synchronicity with their every action, because why would they, that would be creepy and crazy. So I and Me takes what you already know to be a halfway loony concept and goes full tilt on executing this cute, wistful and downright frustrating game to beautiful agony.
I and Me puts you in the guise of a cat; two cats, to be more specific. You are a cat who is followed around by its…shadow? Another cat? The actual identity of your doppelganger isn’t made clear, but you can clearly figure out what needs to be done, which is get both cats into the picture frame. The melancholy story line, which is told through small snippets of exposition before levels and from hidden diary entries throughout the game, tell of a lonely cat who’s only friend is this other cat, who may actually just be a cat manifestation inside said cat’s head. When you move, the other cat moves. You jump, it jumps. When you die, the other cat just sits around gormlessly until the level restarts. There’s a cute but sad little tale that slowly unfolds, and you do feel for the cat, however lonely it may actually be, and you do want to get the two cats into the picture frames so that it feels a small shred of happiness. Even cats with potentially imaginary friend deserve to have joyous celebrations, and cat here just wants to be in a picture frame with other cat so a picture is taken and everything seems complete.
I and Me, gamewise, is a weird mixture if satisfying accomplishment and rageful incredulity. As you may have guess, Cat and other Cat rarely have a straight line to their picture frames, and need to navigate paths that are strewn with spikes, hole, hedgehogs, bees and any number of other obstacles that prevent the player from simply giving Cat what he wants the most. Since the initial spacing and copying of Cat #2 is always the same, the player needs to use the environment to create or close distance with your clone without accidentally ending your kitty life. The problem here lies that the clipping and corners of many things are slightly off. For instance, a cat can easily sit on the end of a wooden platform without any effect, but a grassy edge will, on occasion, give way and your cat (or second cat) will slip down onto the platform below. Did you mean to do that? Excellent, you’re truly a cat herding master! Was that a mistake you didn’t think would happen? Congratulations, you’ve now realized the true purpose of this game is to make you as batty as the cat himself!
Everything is mostly straightforward in a “what you see is what you get” sort of fashion. There is a magic wand that you occasionally find that reverses one cat’s directions, but this is pretty infrequent given that, out of 90 levels, I only really remember it…three times? Except for that, you know exactly what you’re in for after the third level. The exact pixels on spikes and animals isn’t precise, so you need to give yourself a bit of breathing room and time to plan exactly how you’re going to navigate the hazards and get to your photographic reward. And, as with all puzzle games, the payoff is really in the eyes of the beholder. There were a few times when I beat the level and didn’t really get that great rush of “I did it!” and instead was met with a “seriously?” moment. That’s when something that you tried, over and over, suddenly just clicked and you can barely see what you did differently from the times before. I and Me, for all it’s themes of unity and working together, inadvertently pits the player against themselves, making you hate the cat who hit a trap like it was their fault. Not all the time, mind you: more than a few occasions brought about fist pumping and smug grins, but not as many as I would have liked.
I did really enjoy the way that the game was drawn and designed. The levels, though devious in nature, look like an adorable obstacle course that the cat has setup himself in a whimsical meadow somewhere (yes, even the dark night levels). I like the sooty nature of the cat and the other cat, and the enemies are straight off of a greeting card in their non offensive, cartoonish nature. It’s a perfect match to the idea that the game is setting forward, and I even enjoyed the cursive font used for the one or two line setups between levels. There’s a wonderful lightness to everything that almost serves to counterbalance the difficulty and repetition that you find yourself stuck in when you can’t quite make that last ledge.
Finally, the music and narration (again, all textual) do paint a pretty enough picture of a creature who is doting and sometimes critical of it’s companion/shadow. The music is lighthearted enough and atmospheric, but it almost made things feel mocking when I got impaled time after time in approximately the same area. In addition, I had hoped that the scrolls that were so difficult to obtain would shed light on the game in some way, maybe giving insight into the true nature of the second cat, or even about the psyche of the first cat. Without spoiling anything, it all just felt…like a bit of a snipe hunt. You can avoid the scrolls unless absolutely compelled to get them, but don’t be shocked if you feel a bit let down in the end.
I and Me is a cute idea that was given good form on the big and small screen. But with a number of missed opportunities – no rumble, no replay incentive and some shockingly difficult moments – it falls a bit short from where it was aiming. Fans of puzzle platformers that need one player teamwork may be drawn in and find some real memories in this beautiful tale of cat and cat alike. If you have little patience, however, or generally don’t find comfort in trial and error, I would recommend steering clear of I and Me. We can still admire what was done here without needing to rip our hair out in the process, and I and Me is definitely some other cat’s meow.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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