Disclaimer: an advanced, digital copy for this game was provided by the publisher, Reverb Communications Inc., for review purposes.
Embers of Mirrim takes a new approach to the classically loved puzzle platformer. On the surface, the game appears to be fairly generic for the genre; run across the map, jump to avoid threats, and occasionally piece together a puzzle or two. But once you enter the world set before you, it is a quick realization the Embers of Mirrim has branched into something much more unique.
Instead of the traditional gameplay of a single character tasked with traversing the strange world in which they live, Embers of Mirrim cracks this idea in half. Instead of a single character, Creative Bytes Studios developed a world in which you play as two. Sort of. There is a brief introduction scene that lays out two different races of strangely beautiful creatures in some sort of standoff before the arrival of the obvious leader.
TORN BETWEEN TWO
The tutorial phase of the game has you play each half of a different race of these oddly beautiful creatures. Through the use of each separately, you are introduced to the basics of the game mechanics. Move, sprint, jump, glide. Simple enough. It does not take long to realize that these two are traveling in mirror of one another: one down a creek and to the left while the other down a mountain and to the right.
Upon reentering the same high fantasy inspired conference room built into the natural landscape, you are introduced to the concept of embers. Each of the two races have the ability to morph into a translucent, floating ember indicative of their respective color pallet. This is used to unlock certain passages and travel through color respective matrix like grids. Once this mechanic is mastered, this duality of woodland beasts become fused into one, singular being.
This is where the game really takes off. Now, instead of controlling a single character and morphing as needed, you guide the two-as-one. The complexity here stems from the occurrence of duel grids and locks. Upon morphing into the embers, both become present, and you must guide them each separately, yet close enough, through the puzzles.
TRAVERSING THE WORLD
The most noticeable aspect of any puzzle platformer is the gameplay mechanics. Physical gameplay itself runs smoothly enough, with only minor hiccups peppered throughout. Sometimes the duel stick controls of operating separate embers simultaneously will draw directional fidelity from one of the other, sending one of the embers in either the wrong direction or far into the foreground. Jumping and gliding can be a touch off with spatial reasoning and placement, occasionally having the float-across drop-off prematurely or change progression nearly at random.
The physical mechanics are occasionally hindered or harmed through the inability to control the camera angles. It is not uncommon for a 2D platformer to take camera control out of the player’s hands; especially given that both analog sticks are required for gameplay. The problem is that the camera moves in ways that are not always natural to game progression. Every now and again the camera may pan out to show more of the landscape when you need a slightly more up close view to see some of the minor threats. Inversely, the camera may pan in rather close, hiding an obstacle just out of view before you reach it. The camera also tends to rotate around a limited range of angles, not always indicative of the need for play.
Still, the landscape presented is outstanding. As far as smaller titles are concerned, Embers of Mirrim may be one of the most ascetically pleasing games around. A sprawling natural landscape pepper with elements of whimsy and fantasy are a joy to behold. Only, give the 2D nature of the platformer, there are not as expansive and open to exploration as one may want. It almost seems like a shame to create such an inspiring world and not make it more available.
SOUNDS TO GUIDE YOU
The story set in the world is oddly simplistic, but beautiful in that way. First impressions would lead one to believe that the game centers around the struggle of the different races. That quickly gives way to something a little grander and more sinister. The story is presented in a less direct manner, given that there are virtually no words or dialog throughout. Aside from the occasional pop-up text that briefly explains the game’s mechanisms, there is nothing else. So, even though the game is clear laid out before you, the story is a little subtler than that.
The final key facet of any game, one that is not discussed or regarded nearly as much as it should be, is the sound design. The implementation of environmental sound effects are a touch lacking. The clamor of falling, the sharp gripping effect, the rushing of water, and so much more are present. But, not quite enough. Though the sound effects are present, they do not quite live up to desired and leave just a touch of the world not fully fleshed out. Aside from this, the soundtrack is outstanding. A mixture of high-fantasy, medieval melodies and folk-inspired tunes guide you through the world in a progression pushing tranquility.
As a whole, Embers of Mirrim is an enjoyable platforming experience. By taking the traditional platforming mechanics and tearing them apart into a fresh duality, the gameplay avoids falling victim to payed out tropes. The world is a freshly beautiful landscape giving stage for a somewhat simple, yet enthralling story. All of this, with a truly outstanding soundtrack. Still, some of the gameplay mechanics are a little troublesome; which is to be expected with innovation. Still, troublesome nonetheless. And the camera operation and changes throughout the levels are problematic to say the least. All in all, Embers of Mirrim is a game worth a play-through or two.