The Company of Myself is an arty 2D platformer and the predecessor (but narrative prequel) of Fixation. Fixation followed the story of Kathryn, one part of which was meeting and having a brief but significant relationship with a man named Jack. The Company of Myself tells Jack’s story - how he met Kathryn, how he lost her, and how that experience led him to become a hermit, cut off from the rest of humanity. The story is well told and wonderfully sad, but pales in comparison to its prequel’s dialogue and depth of characterization.
Actually, I’m kicking myself for not playing the games in the order they were released, because the prequel improved on TCoM in pretty much every way. Much as the excellence of Metroid Prime affected my feelings on Super Metroid, my opinion of TCoM suffers because of how much better the next game turned out to be. But even with that said, The Company of Myself is a very good game that’s well worth your time.
Anyone who has played Braid will recognize the main gameplay hook here. By moving a little ways into a screen/level and then resetting, the ghost of Jack’s first attempt at the level will still perform the actions you did the first time around. Just as with Braid, you can use this mechanic to have previous versions of yourself flip a switch while you walk through a door, or have earlier versions do something at one end of the level, while you go to the other. In addition, the previous copies of Jack are solid enough to be stood on by the real Jack, which means you can use them as platforms and height extenders to go where you otherwise could not. A couple of wrinkles get thrown into this formula. There are some areas that Jack can move through but his copies cannot, which forces you to change your strategy. There are also a few levels where you get to play as both Jack and Kathryn, alternating between the two and using that teamwork to solve puzzles and overcome obstacles together.
Some of these sections worked better than others for me. I am playing Braid right now, and am frankly not enjoying much of it, so to the extent that TCoM uses similar mechanics, I don’t feel any better about them here. Many of the puzzles in this game fall into one of two categories: 1) so easy they don’t require solving, just doing, and 2) so difficult that they require many tries, with dozens of copies, and get solved by guessing or luck. Only some of the puzzles really hit the sweet spot where it’s easy to do without getting frustrated, but challenging enough that you feel good when you solve it. The gameplay is always functional, and usually enjoyable, but it will not be what you remember about the game.
That distinction goes to the story, which as I’ve said is quite nice. It’s a bit surreal, like its prequel, and there’s an interesting twist at the end regarding what it is we’ve been hearing. Overall, while it lacks some of the genuineness and heart of Fixation, this is a legitimately good story that will stick with you. I should also mention that, true to pattern, the visuals are decent, but not as good as its successor. The music, though, is just as beautiful here and remains a highlight of the experience.
The second release may have bested the first, but I still recommend playing them both (in the correct order, if possible). Both are mechanically sound and narratively compelling, and to miss out on either would be a shame. You can play The Company of Myself for free in your browser here, and say hello to the developers, 2DArray, here.