You Cannot Forget: Forget-Me-Not
At first blush, Forget-Me-Not seems like a rather simple and straightforward take on the maze game concept popularized by Namco’s Pac-Man. After starting the game, you’re presented with a maze filled with collectibles that turn out to be flowers. A key rests somewhere in the maze, and a creature or two may be lurking around as well. The instinct for most players will likely be to get that key and grab all of those flowers. As soon as the player character spawns, the player will certainly notice that they can shoot. Indeed, they must shoot.
Perhaps nothing goes awry here. The player shoots the creatures, collects the flowers, grabs the key, and heads for the lock that appears. Sooner or later, however, something weird is bound to happen. Maybe one of the creatures picks up the key and takes it with them. Perhaps two of the creatures start fighting with each other. The player may grab the key and have one of the creatures steal it away from them. More likely than not, the player will also accidentally shoot themselves in the back by firing down a wrap-around hallway. Observant players may notice the sparks that sometimes appear when the character pushes against a wall, or that the way points are tallied seems to change based on certain actions.
Once this surface is scratched, the true nature of Forget-Me-Not starts to become apparent. Although the game can be played like the simple arcade action game it appears to be, you won’t be able to get the highest scores or the most significant progress until you start engaging with its surprisingly deep mechanics. For example, you get more points for the flowers you pick up if you grab them consecutively without breaking your streak by passing over an empty square.
Pushing against the wall will generate sparks and set your character up to automatically turn the next corner, but if you continue to build those sparks you’ll enter a speedy, nigh-invincible state where you can smash through creatures for big points. The different types of creatures have regular behaviors that can be learned and manipulated. Some like to fight, and will wander about shooting or smashing into anything that moves. Others love the key and will always try to get it. Some like to pick up the flowers laying around, while others like to eat the fruit left behind by defeated creatures. Some can shoot. Some can explode. You’ll want to pay careful attention to those.
All of these mechanics come together to create a surprisingly rich strategic experience. Certainly, you need to have the action chops to handle the real-time gameplay, but you also need to pay a lot of attention to the underlying structures behind everything if you want to maximize your score. Things only get wilder as you get deeper into the game as more advanced creatures start coming into the mix in greater numbers. If you want to get a feel for what this is like, you can try the game’s Shuffle mode. There’s a good chance it will throw a late-game level at you quite early on, allowing you to see the chaos that tends to unfold.
Shuffle mode is just one of the variations available in Forget-Me-Not. Standard mode gives you three lives and a normal level progression and challenges you to get as high a score as you can. Shuffle is similar, except that it completely randomizes the difficulty of the levels you’re served as you progress. Seed mode gives you a fixed set of mazes that is delivered to all players of the game and changes daily. It’s the only mode where you can be certain you’re on a level playing field with other players of the game. Survival mode is similar to the Standard mode, but you have only a single life to play with. Finally, the Arena mode gives you a big map that constantly refreshes with new waves of creatures. The key here serves only as a shield as the traditional means of changing levels doesn’t apply here.
On top of that, any of these modes can be played with either one or two players, and on one of two difficulty settings. Original mode is a bit easier and was the default difficulty of Forget-Me-Not. Arcade mode makes things a bit tougher and is meant for more seasoned players. As for the multiplayer mode, it’s great fun. You need a fairly big display for it to work properly, as both players will be playing off of the same device. One player swipes on the left side of the screen, while the other uses the right. You can work together or battle against each other as you see fit, and most games will see players going back and forth between the two states quite frequently.
Forget-Me-Not packs in all the thrills of an arcade game, all the strategy of a home computer game, and all the modes of a console game. It wraps all of that up with accessible mobile controls and a distinctive retro presentation. Many players and reviews have talked about how they would fire the game up for a quick session only to lose hours to it, and it’s easy to see why. It has a sort of proto-roguelite feeling to it, while still embodying the pick-up-and-play appeal of the arcade games that inspired it. In time, there would be many games that would attempt to mine this kind of appeal, but Forget-Me-Not did it years ahead of the pack and in a way that no one has quite replicated.