Embers of Mirrim: Split Personality | A Short Pause Review
Back in January when I attended PAX South, I had the opportunity to play several very interesting games. One such title from that event was Embers of Mirrim by Canadian developer Creative Bytes Studios. Now that I've had a chance to play the full game, I can definitively say Embers of Mirrim hits home with some clever design ideas. On the other hand, it also misses the mark on occasion with some elements that didn't quite click with me.
Tale of the Tape
Title: Embers of Mirrim
Release Date: May 23rd, 2017
Developer: Creative Bytes Studios
Platforms: PS4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC
Embers of Mirrim is a puzzle-platformer of sorts with an interesting twist. You play as a catlike creature that has the ability to split itself into two separate embers — purple and green — that can be controlled with the right and left stick, respectively. As the creature Mirrim, you must explore levels filled with platforming challenges and puzzles on a quest to rid the land of corruption.
One thing I really appreciated about the game was its method of teaching you the core mechanics concerning how to control the embers. You first play a short segment of a level as the white cat, Mir, who gains the power of light embers. You can press the left trigger at any time to transform into the light ember and control its path with the left stick. Subsequently, you play a level as the black cat, Rim, who gains the power of dark embers which can be activated with the right trigger. Playing these levels separately allows you the chance to become acclimated to the basic concept of steering the embers around. Once these two creatures are fused into one, you will have the aforementioned ability to control both embers at once with the left and right sticks, which is when the puzzles and challenges start becoming more and more complex. In addition, Mirrim can glide when you hold down the jump button and there's also a ground pound move for smashing certain rocks and floors, and attacking during boss fights.
Embers of Mirrim also does a good job of gradually introducing new elements into the formula to keep things interesting as you progress. For example, there are green and purple nets that require you to split up and navigate through them as the light and dark embers, respectively. There are also orange nets that prevent you from splitting at all. You'll come across weird sentient mushrooms that you can manipulate — to extend additional platforms for you to jump on, or to launch you upward like a spring — depending on which ember is used to activate them. You can only fly so far after splitting, but there are rifts (pockets of light or dark energy) that you can pass through to fly further. Finally, there are slingshot and catapult-like devices that will launch you forward if you enter them using the correct color ember. All of these elements combined (along with some other surprises I didn't mention) amount to some interesting and challenging puzzle-platforming.
However, with all that Embers of Mirrim does well, there were a few elements that didn't resonate with me and prevent the game from being something greater. The biggest offender in this category is the waterfall segment. Basically, as you are passing along in front of a huge cascading waterfall, the camera stops, preventing you from proceeding. Suddenly, some massive hollow tree trunks begin plunging down the waterfall in the background. You have to move quickly, splitting and recombining to avoid being crushed by bark or killed by thorns as about 10 of these trees plummet behind you, one after the other. But it doesn't stop there. You move a little further and it happens again. Ten more trees. Just when you think it's over, you move another few feet and it happens a third time! Ten more trees! Aside from the fact that it makes no logical sense for something in the background to be able to crush you, this portion of the game completely breaks the flow and the immersion of the rest of the adventure. Yes, even in a fantastical world filled with magical cat creatures, crazy mushroom people, and giant flying whale worms, the waterfall level makes no sense, and it doesn't fit in with the rest of the concepts in this game.
There are a couple of minor things that caused some frustration for me as well. Several times over the course of the game, the camera angle shifts away from the traditional side-scrolling perspective. I'm all about getting a new and interesting point of view — and most of the time it's not an issue — but at one point the camera moves in front of the character at a weird angle, making it very difficult to determine when to jump. This in turn leads to a few needless deaths. When the camera negatively impacts gameplay, then it becomes an issue. Fortunately, that camera angle didn't persist for too long. My final complaint about Embers of Mirrim involves the many glyphs hidden throughout the game. Glyphs are basically symbols that you draw by moving both embers simultaneously to connect a series of dots. The glyphs themselves are a novel idea and I enjoyed discovering them. However, the problem I encountered with them was with the fact that you must continually move the embers without stopping to complete the glyph, or else you'll have to start over. Some of these glyphs are very complex, requiring you to move the control sticks in completely disparate ways at the same time to complete the drawing. Unfortunately, you are given little-to-no time to think about your next move before the game decides that you've taken too long and must start over again.
Having said all of that, Embers of Mirrim is still a very interesting game that brings some cool ideas to the table. Even though there was some frustrating moments with some of the glyphs and the waterfall section, many of the puzzles and secrets kept me engaged and made me want to see what was next. The developers did a great job of teaching the player the mechanics of the game, as well as steadily infusing new things into the mix so as to keep the proceedings from becoming stale. The story is sparse with zero dialogue, but the game world is unique and beautiful with awesome backgrounds and impressive lighting effects. Finally, the fully orchestrated soundtrack is fantastic throughout. If you're looking for a good game with an attainable Platinum trophy, and you're able to resist the urge to throw your controller at your TV a few times, then Embers of Mirrim is worth a look.
We reviewed Embers of Mirrim using a PlayStation 4 digital code provided to us by the fine folks at Reverb Communications
- Unique game mechanics and puzzles
- Great soundtrack
- Beautiful game world
- Platinum trophy
- Waterfall portion should never have made it past pre-production
- Glyphs can be overly frustrating
- A few questionable camera angles