Join ScreenCritics Cole as he explores Imprint-X, a unique puzzle game avaliable on Steam.
imprint-X reminds me of the simple flash games I used to play on school computers when I was supposed to be paying attention to a teacher or subject whose lessons I had no interest in learning. The problem with these types of games though is that I never found them interesting enough to continue playing or even really think about outside of school. They would serve as an acceptable distraction when needed, but that doesn’t mean they were good. Similarly, while imprint-X is a game with a few bright spots, iis fairly forgettable.
Puzzles in imprint-X are very short and mechanically basic, only requiring the player to click on various points of the screen. This simplicity leads to failed attempts of adding complexity through level design and the limiting of allowed clicks, but this and the many other weak aspects of imprint-X create a frustrating and boring experience.
The primary issue is that imprint-X tries to present far too many types of puzzles, many of which are not successful, and never allows them more than a small handful of levels to develop. Meaning that when you finally do come across the two or three puzzle varieties you enjoy, you will likely finish them in a very short amount of time. What’s worse is the fact that the final stages at the end of imprint-X‘s five worlds are all based around the same idea of requiring the player to sit and wait for two sprites to line up as they move across the screen at different speeds and patterns. Outside of randomly trading the puzzle solving used everywhere else in the game for timing based challenges, these levels also ignore all of the concepts you’ve learned on your way to completing the world causing these sections to feel both like a wasted opportunity and a waste of the player’s time.
My frustration with these “wait for the sprites to line up” levels was not helped by the fact that the second to last world on the world selector is just a single one of these stages randomly generated. To make this terrible surprise even worse was the fact that during my first attempt to complete the level I need to start over through no fault of my own, but because the game had two sprites set to the same circular motion and speed causing them to spin endlessly without intersecting.
During the frantic clicking of these end stages, I was also often reminded of the game’s most pointless and annoying feature that allows you to drag the screen. This dragging happens if the player moves the mouse even the slightest bit while clicking which leads to moments where portions of the level are now off screen. Giving the player the ability to do this would make sense if imprint-X‘s puzzles were ever extended outside of the screen but this was something I never encountered during my time with the game.
imprint-X also includes three in-game items that add to the number of clicks allowed per level, slow down time, and enable you to skip a level entirely. While I do think the items themselves were interesting regarding how they interact with the game, my biggest problem with them is that I never fully understood how I was accumulating them. There is a lack of sophistication in the game’s design which poorly communicates information to the player not only related to the game’s items but also other aspects as well. I had no idea how the game was rating my performance during each level and sometimes even how I managed to complete a level. This idea of leaving the player in the dark about concepts in the game is not inherently bad, but doing so needs to be handled with an elegance that evokes curiosity and intrigue and the clumsy game design of imprint-X only manages to confuse and annoy.
This clumsy touch also, unfortunately, makes its way into imprint-X‘s storytelling. imprint-X‘s story is told entirely through vague dialogue-free cutscenes that while initially intriguing begin to feel unnecessarily unclear. One possible solution for this would have been the inclusion of an in-game method for players to learn more about the setting, characters, and story. In all honestly, I feel as if the game would have been better off as just a collection of puzzles as the story failed to inspire any real interest from me.
The one aspect of imprint-X that is well deserving of praise is the game’s soundtrack. On the occasion that I was enjoying a puzzle, the music did help quite a bit to create a great atmosphere that is so lacking from every other aspect of the game. Though these few moments, by comparison, only serve to make the rest of imprint-X‘s flaws stand out even more.
There were moments of imprint-X that I did enjoy but time and time again they were smothered by everything else the game gets so wrong. The tragic flaw of imprint-X seems to be its desire always to shoot itself in the foot leading to a uniquely frustrating and forgettable experience.