The Company of Myself Browser game Developed by Eli Piilonen
With a title like that, it’s no surprise that this a sad game. Back when I was still in school we often had to use computer labs where you made assignments and worked on projects. These were usually so easy that you’d be left with plenty of time and this was way before social media took off the way it has, so left bored we turned to, you guessed it, video games. Installing Counter Strike on these old bricks wasn’t an option, so we turned to flash games. While playing a very moving and depressing platformer may not have been the best choice during class, I found that The Company of Myself really intrigued me.
No co-op allowed
As the title implies, this game is about a man who is lonely and has come to terms with that. He takes pride in his ability to solve problems on his own, though he does reminisce about a better time when a girl joined him on his adventures.
In gameplay this translates into a 2D puzzle platformer where you have to reach a green door by jumping around, with the twist being that you can hit the spacebar to replay the stage while a transparent clone of yourself follows the path you took before. You use this to bypass hazards, like using these clones as stepping stones or letting them flip a switch in a pit you couldn’t climb out of otherwise.
The stages all combine this mechanic of making clones with a constant stream of new mechanics it can interact with or layouts that require you to rethink how to use them. For example, one stage may introduce a barrier that clones can’t pass but you can and the one after that might turn it around. This then serves as the core idea of a few puzzles before retiring and returning later as more of a supporting puzzle element rather than the main focus. As you make your way through these levels you are treated to snippets of the character’s thoughts, which provides details about his feelings or have him respond to the challenge he (and you) are faced with.
While this is an interesting setup and definitely filled a boring hour in class, replaying it now I can’t quite appreciate it as much as I did back in 2010. Using clones is a popular mechanic in puzzle games and basing a whole game around just it leaves The Company of Myself a bit on the boring side. Its excellent level design does make up for that and it takes the one mechanic far, but when I am faced with such a small level and an interesting puzzle my first instinct is to immediately start figuring it out and experimenting with it. While that makes the puzzles praiseworthy, I often got so absorbed in it that I forgot to actually read the text, which tends to fade out when you make progress on the puzzle. There were times were I would finish 3 whole stages before realizing I hadn’t been reading anything.
The Yawgh was also big on using poetically-presented text to tell an engaging story, but it had the proper sense to put the text between turns so players are more likely to be paying attention. I also wasn’t a fan of some levels that took a lot of precarious setup and could be ruined by the smallest of missteps, requiring you to do a hard reset of the level to do it all over.
Story & Gameplay score: 6/10
10/10 for the top hat though
I’ll say right away that the presentation of The Company of Myself is very much a 6/10, which in my book generally translates to decently serviceable. It does nothing spectacular: your character has a simple design, the levels are all constructed from the same grassy floor sprite and all the puzzle mechanics use bright, primary colors to make them easily identifiable. I know it’s a flash game from 8 years ago, but it just doesn’t do anything visually interesting, and the sad music playing throughout the game doesn’t exactly excite either.
The only cool thing that stands out is seeing a bunch of transparent clones running throughout the stage. I always liked seeing tons of Meat Boys running around in Super Meat Boy and this has the same appeal for me, minus the gore.
Presentation score: 6/10
In this day and age of smartphones there are countless ways to alleviate boredom, but back when I was in school browser games were all we had and all we needed. The Company of Myself still features good puzzle design and the story about loneliness gives it some heart, but it’s kind of dull to play and you can probably find better puzzle-platformers and better emotional stories.