Puzzle games are alive and well given the popularity of titles like Antichamber, The Talos Principle, and The Witness. While these games feature worlds to explore outside the puzzles, it’s the puzzles themselves that draw you in. Imprint-X is a straightforward puzzle game that has puzzle-first mentality when it comes to gameplay. With simple, click-to-solve puzzles, a thumping soundtrack, and interesting visuals, it aims to be more than meets the eye at first glance.
Imprint-X has a minimalist design philosophy. From the single icon menus to the gameplay mechanic of just clicking, it’s all simple. Imprint-X is all about solving puzzles. The game’s light setup has a kind of Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind vibe as the main character puts on a VR helmet to travel into the minds of others to solve puzzles because, according to the Steam page, you hack minds to save their intellect from evil Wardens. Without reading the game's flavor text on Steam it’s not clear what solving these puzzles does exactly but that’s not really the point of Imprint-X. The point is to solve puzzles by pressing buttons. While that sounds simple, Imprint-X adds some smart, if confusing, twists to keep the puzzles fresh. When a puzzle appears on-screen there is no instruction or tutorial given. Instead, you have a certain number of clicks to solve a puzzle in and it’s up to you to figure out how to solve it by sheer experimentation. At first the puzzles are a matter of clicking buttons in the right order, but puzzles soon become increasingly complicated and tricky.
I found the overall difficulty of the puzzles to be a bit hit or miss. While some early puzzles were a breeze to get through, others took a while and the solution wasn’t clear even when I’d technically solved it. Other times I’d solve a puzzle in seconds despite it being one of the last puzzles in a series. That kind of hit or miss difficulty, mixed with the needed experimentation, can become frustrating. Often times I found the most frustrating puzzles to be ones where the game wanted me to create a shape of some sort. Despite there being a variety of shapes to create with the given pieces, there was only one answer.
And so I frustratingly died over and over tried to parse out what shape to make with no hints or help whatsoever. That kind of puzzle solving isn’t the only type in Imprint-X but it certainly stood out as my least favorite. Other puzzles included pressing buttons in order, lighting up lights in the right sequence, and other variations like that. Overall I found the majority of the puzzles to be surprisingly intricate and enjoyable despite only taking a few minutes to solve.
The real bummer came when a set of puzzles was completed and the final solution was needed. This boiled down to the same boring mini-game each time. The game involves clicking at the right time as one piece moves over another. Sometimes the speed of the two pieces are different so the timing is tricky and other times the pieces moves in two different patterns so it becomes a waiting game of clicking at the right time. I found this endgame to be wholly unnecessary and boring after I completed it the first time. Sure, it changes from level to level but the basic premise is the same and it’s just not fun. I often found myself watching the pieces move around screen for far too long before I could click and get one of the four or five needed clicks to complete that stage of the level, and there are multiple stages of this process. After a set of interesting puzzles that move, light up, and feel hard to accomplish, having to time your clicks to win just felt cheap.
I’d be a bad person if I didn’t mention the audio and visual style of Imprint-X as they both save this game from being a basic puzzle clicker. The visuals, while simplistic, look like a techno-mechanical nightmare gone awry. Lights and colors flash in and out of the background while the puzzle you are trying to solve lights up, moves in smooth, mechanical ways, or flashes with various colors. And the audio, oh the audio. Imprint-X has one of the better soundtracks I’ve heard from an indie game and it makes the maddening puzzles more tolerable with its pumping bass and distinct, techno sound. I can definitely see the soundtrack of Imprint-X being one I come back to long after I finish the game.
Imprint-X has style and that goes a long way in terms of making the game stand out. Without its look and without its music it really is just a simplistic game about clicking to solve puzzles. Solving the puzzles provides a sense of accomplishment at times but overall there is no greater purpose or reason to solve them other than the game wants you to. But with that bass beating along in the back maybe you don’t need a better reason than that. For an inexpensive, well-designed puzzle game you can certainly do worse than Imprint-X and it will definitely whittle away the hours without you even knowing.