Good indie puzzle and platform games are often hard to come by. Either they lack the challenge you’re looking for or, often times, they piggyback off of games that have come before it. But in all my years of gaming, I haven’t quite experienced anything like Embers of Mirrim. Journey along with me as I go over an okay story, beautiful graphics and music, and some seriously difficult puzzles in my Embers of Mirrim review.
As I said, the story of Embers of Mirrim is okay. It isn’t groundbreaking, ripping the tears out of your eyes or keeping you up at night wondering what you’ve done with your life after wasting all your youth. However, it gives the perfect excuse to prompt it’s main game mechanics, which I’ll go over in a bit.
In a world very different from our own, the creatures who lived as foes are brought together as an Elder shows them an incoming threat. Their world’s defenses fail, and alien-like entities come crashing down and corrupting the planet and the creatures.
Two of these feuding creatures, Rim (the purple one) and Mir (the green one) race toward the tower they first met each other in and fate binds them into one character, Mirrim.
However, you are not just bound to this form. Mirrim can split into two embers that move as separate beings. And this is how it all begins. You must now traverse the world and it’s obstacles as you try to free others from corruption and fight this alien force.
Now to the most interesting part of Embers of Mirrim; it’s splitting.
In order to solve the platforming sections of Embers of Mirrim, you must split yourself into two forms and move around the map. You do this by using your right thumbstick to control Rim and your left thumbstick to control Mir. And it is difficult.
If you read my article about the final trailer released for Embers of Mirrim, you may remember me saying that it seemed like a very “pat your head and rub your stomach” mindset. It’s exactly that. You have to consciously remember which way to move each of your fingers, and you are given very little time to do it as your “ember” form only lasts a few seconds before dispelling and dropping you wherever you are.
If you are one of the people who can perform two incredibly different motor functions at once, this game will be challenging. If you aren’t one of those people, like me…consider the game always on hard mode. Even when it’s clear to see how to get passed a section, my thumbs would still fumble and do the wrong thing.
An example, if you’d be so kind as to humor me. In one section you’ll have to have Rim travel down and to the right and Mir up and to the right, hitting a number of, what I’m gunna call “ember boosters” that give you more time in your ember form. I would have to start each round telling myself, out loud, “Okay Marissa, your right thumb goes down and your left thumb goes up.” And after 15 attempts I would either have both my thumbs go the same way, or I would get going only to then mess up when grabbing these “boosters”. It was so frustrating because I knew exactly what I wanted to do, but my brain and my thumbs could not agree to actually do it.
Is it too challenging? If you’re like me and can’t pat your head and rub your stomach at the same time. At the time of writing these review, I have still not beaten the game. And not for lack of trying. The first chapter alone took me an embarrassing amount of time to beat. I’ll keep trying, but I honestly don’t know if I’m gunna be able to get passed some of the sections I’ve seen so far.
If you have no problem with your freakish talent of doing the pat and rub thing, here are some other gameplay things to note. The camera, which is a HUGE deal in the world of platforming is actually really smooth. Although set back kind of far from your duo, now an uno, the camera does a good job of giving you an idea of what to do next. It zooms out when you encounter rather large puzzles and zooms back in when you are running along a path or fighting a boss. I never had any frame rate issues either.
My main concern, aside from me just failing at this whole splitting thing, is the sensitivity. You can’t ease up on your speed at all. You are either going full throttle or not at all. Although you spend a majority of the game just scrolling left, when you are landing on platforms or timing your jumps, this becomes a bit of a problem as you can easily overshoot your goal.
However, if you are worried about respawn times and autosaves, don’t. I tested these extensively…by dying…a lot. The autosaves have been pretty forgiving, and other than blacking out for a few seconds, you load right back up after death.
Aside from the splitting aspect of the game, it was the graphics that stood out to me most. It’s so sparkly! The world and environments are beautifully designed with fantasy in mind. From caverns with low light with only a few glowing orbs or beams of sunlight to illuminate your path, to forests and rivers and mountains, the world just looks nice.
The characters look really neat too. I can’t tell if they are cat-like creatures or bird-like creatures or dragon-like…okay, you get the point.
And. Uhm. It’s SPARKLY! The light effects that make up Rim and Mir’s ember forms is visually pleasing as well as bright and very easy to differentiate, which of course is a big deal when figuring out where to send which part of you.
My only complaint: there is clipping. Not sure what clipping is? Well, the wing-like appendages on Mir’s shoulders “clip” through the rest of his body in cut scenes.
The last thing I’ll talk about is the music for this game. Oh my gosh is it beautifully composed. Going back to the fantasy vibe of, well, every aspect of this game, the soundtrack does the theme justice. Just listen to the launch trailer and you’ll hear one of the more epic pieces to guide you through.
When I would get frustrated, you know, from the whole splitting thing, I would just sit there and listen to the music until I could convince myself that I still had the will to live after failing such simple sections of the game. And it’s not just epics with a choir making you feel like “Oh my god! I just have to RUN!” When you are just kind of jogging along, doing your thing, splitting and reforming, the music is calming and pretty. 10 out of 10 on the soundtrack. Sound design, however, is a totally different story. But let’s just leave it on the pretty music note.
See what I did there?
So as I round out my Embers of Mirrim review, it’s not a perfect game. Its story is okay, its controls, although unique, were too challenging for me, but I really do admire the mechanics so much that I’m not even that mad, bro. And, considering how many playtests the game had gone through before release, I know it can be played and beaten and enjoyed. I’m just not there yet.
You can tell as soon as you play the game that the design team behind it really considered what it would take to make a compelling, mechanic driven game. And I applaud them for their efforts.
Now if only there was a baby difficulty…
An early review copy of Embers of Mirrim was provided to WTFGamersOnly courtesy of Creative Bytes Studios.