Mimic Arena is a colourful and frantic game – the first to be developed and published by indie studio Tiny Horse Games.

Having heard nothing about Mimic Arena, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, but with couch co-op games always being in supply on the Xbox store I was happy to see what the team over at Tiny Horse had in store for us. Mimic Arena is in fact a local multiplayer-2D-platform-shoot-em’up with gameplay that relies heavily on fast fingers and even faster reactions in order to stand a chance of victory.

With most local multiplayer games, the action is found within arena based combat and Mimic Arena is no different in that respect. Up to four players can jump in for some close quarters head-to-head combat in a handful of different Pac-Man style platform arenas; but it won’t just be where your opponents are that you need to keep an eye out for, but where they have already been for this is where the mimics come into play.

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From the main menu, players have three distinct game modes to choose between in the form of Death Match, Survival and Infiltration. Before heading into any of these game modes however you must first choose who to play as with four nameless characters each sporting a different colour with Blue, Green, Pink and Orange available in both male and female forms. As per usual with arena based games, Death Match sees players battling it out to become the first to the score limit, the limit in this case being twenty, and this is done as would be expected by shooting enemy players, and their mimics, with the attacks available. Survival is a variation of the classic Last Man Standing in which mimics once more have a large part to play in who wins and who doesn’t, with Infiltration sharing a close resemblance with football.

Okay.. so there’s a lot of talk about these mimics, but what are they?

Mimics can be your best weapon or your worst enemy and really are the main aspect of the game. Coming into play as recordings of the players previous actions, mimics as the name suggests, copy the players actions till their most recent death. For example, if a player was to run from one area of the map to another, upon death a mimic would spawn from the starting point of the previous life and complete the exact movements the player had just taken – jumping, shooting, and traversing the stage. This turns the game into more than a simple player vs player arena shooter, with those taking the time to master mimic control able to potentially set up traps for opposing players. With more than one mimic available at one time – should several deaths follow over a short period – things can very quickly become hectic.

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The mimics biggest part in the game however is seen in how they change up the game modes on offer. All of the modes really rely on clever use of the mimics in order to master the game. Don’t be fooled however as they aren’t only a hazard in a death match situation but also potential match winners; killing one before it kills you can add another vital point to your score. With only twenty points needed games can be over before they have even got going with some clever placed shots and some vital backtracking potentially giving plenty of opportunities for double points. Last Man Standing however changes things up slightly and offers another opportunity for learning, because should players take time in finishing off enemies, each player’s mimics will randomly spawn around the arena shooting at enemies, posing enough of a threat that I found myself paying more attention to them than the other actual players.

The game mode that benefits most from these little blighters however is Infiltration. The aim of this game mode is to make your way to your opponent’s area of the map and walk into a football-like goal area. Upon doing this you will be teleported back to the start, with your mimic then taking the exact route you did to get to the goal. Once he arrives in the opponents goal, the point is scored, but with players able to attack each other’s mimics it can become a panicked scramble when deciding if you should give close protection to your little point scorers or if you should instead be making a run for the goal once more, in the hope of bombarding the screen with more and more mimics! Instead of a score limit this mode changes things with a time limit introduced. It is by far the best way to play Mimic Arena, with tensions rising as the timer counts down and matches often decided on who has taken the most sensible route around the arena over who has taken the quickest.

You will also find a few scattered pickups available, all of which act as weapon changers. The weapons on offer include a laser like rifle that can pass through walls and a deflector which does what it says on the tin – deflecting bullets back at your opponent. The only other notable pickup gives the player the ability to fire a bullet with then explodes into eight separate ones with each going in its own little direction. These weapons add a nice balance to the game and give the players a way to defend themselves as well as attack fleeing enemies, something which brings a nice variation to the gameplay.

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Okay so we have three game modes, we have game changing mimics, what else is there?

Other than the game modes and the uniqueness of the mimics, there really isn’t an awful lot else to a game that could have been genre changing. Whilst the idea that has been put into place by Tiny Horse Games is certainly unique, there’s no doubt that one thing has been forgotten that should have been introduced from the start, something that not only stops this game from being nothing more than a time passer but also something that takes away what could be one of gaming’s best indie titles.

This problem is the lack of online multiplayer.

Although it has been intended to be a local multiplayer title, it only takes a short amount of time with each of the game’s three game modes to see that things would benefit hugely from online multiplayer. With Xbox Live enabled, this great little title could be the next eSports craze, much like the hugely appreciated Rocket League. You see, Mimic Arena contains the same addictive gameplay and fast paced action mixed with vibrant and colourful settings and for the most part, it generally offers an experience rarely seen on console. With no online functionality whatsoever this title simply doesn’t offer anything to keep players coming back for more.

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Should friends not be available for a gaming session then there is simply no way of playing. With no bots available to take the place of those empty slots when friends are busy, Mimic Arena simply goes from having huge potential to being nothing more than a local multiplayer title let down by a lack of features; one that will be forgotten with the rush of summer games.

Mimic Arena is a decent game let down by a lack of naturally required features in gaming today. With more and more people now using online play as a way of playing and communicating with friends and local multiplayer games losing popularity with the growth of the online community, Mimic Arena ultimately falls short of greatness.

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