A platformer/puzzler hybrid with a fun dual-analog twist
An alien force is threatening the land. To fight against it, a mysterious ancient power has created a new hero by forging two different creatures, using light and dark embers. To save your fellow inhabitants and rid the corruption from the world, you will need to control these embers at the same time throughout this platformer/puzzler from Creative Bytes Studios. While not perfect, Embers of Mirrim gave me a memorable, unique and atmospheric experience that I think anyone would enjoy.
The game starts by having you control two different beasts (one light and one dark) in alternating sections. This beginning part acts as a tutorial to help you learn what each beast can do, testing you straight away. While one beast moves east, the other one is moving west, and eventually they meet and confront one another. While engaging in a fight, a mysterious force fuses them together, becoming one being and combining each of their embers into one powerful beast, the titular character Mirrim. After this, the player has the ability to split their body into the light and dark embers, which are soul-like beings that are controllable by each of the analog sticks. This ends up being the main component for most of the puzzle and obstacle design throughout the game as you defeat bosses and absorb the "Corruption" that's plaguing the land.
When adventuring through the land, plenty of obstacles are baked into the basic design. Hazardous plantlife full of spikes are growing every which way, pillars of fire erupt from geysers, and all kind of monsters can strike at any time. Splitting apart the embers restricts movement, as the pair can only be so far apart. One of the kinds of puzzles integrated into the world are little mazes that pop up and bend your brain as you try to push through them. Huge objects (like a big tree trunk floating down a river or a gigantic whale beast) will appear for you to ride on them as you dodge and avoid other hazards, simulating a sort of auto-scrolling effect that can be very challenging.
Many different kinds of inhabitable objects reside in every territory that make interesting use of the light and dark embers. For instance, when a mushroom is possessed by the dark ember, it turns into a bouncy platform to boost Mirrim up the screen. When inhabited by the light ember, a long platform protrudes out of it helping Mirrim reach distant places to either the left or right. Other objects include star-shaped hurlers that are either green (for the light ember) or purple (for dark), that can only be possessed by its corresponding ember. These parts of the levels can feel like barrel blasting in a Donkey Kong Country game, and can also be quite punishing. Fortunately, there are no lives - so anytime you perish the game immediately spawns you at a close checkpoint. This let the overall difficulty be brutal at times, but ultimately never felt too frustrating.
While the level designs are basic, some exploring can be done. Hidden throughout some areas are "Glyphs" - which are little symmetrical challenges solved by guiding the different embers in a timely fashion. At the beginning, these are quite simple, but towards the end they get very difficult and seem to require you to have two brains operating at once. The Glyphs are fun little bonuses to break up the platforming, also serving as an added challenge/collectable to seek out alongside the campaign.
The visuals in Embers of Mirrim are gorgeous. The character design of the mystical beasts is very unique and elegant as well with great animation that makes them seem like very believable and natural beings. Many times while playing I would just stop and look at some of the environments, especially into the backgrounds and horizons. The game will lead you through different seasons of massive and flourishing forests and landscapes. Some were very green and living, with the sun casting shadows over the scenery while other parts had the leaves falling at sunset, highlighting the bioluminescent plant life and bringing them to life. The ambient music fills in the rest, as distant drums and a brilliant orchestral score work well with the dynamic camera that pans in and out during gameplay.
While the camera direction can be very cool and enhance some sections, other times it can pan out so far that Mirrim is hard to see and control. This really is my only complaint with the look and feel of the game, for sometimes it's just hard to see what you're doing. In some areas the background looks very much like the foreground and can even match the color of Mirrim, causing some confusion that's only expanded by the fast nature of game. Many obstacles and segments require a good twitch response. Too often I made mistakes purely because I couldn't see what the heck was going on. I could see this being a problem for some people, but I could also imagine someone playing through the whole game and not experiencing an issue. So while it did hinder a few sections, I wouldn't say it's a gamebreaker by any means.
If you are a fan of platformers or puzzle games, you will most likely enjoy Embers of Mirrim. It really does an amazing job of keeping the player engaged by introducing various gameplay elements and changing them up consistently over the entirety of the campaign. Though it was hard to distinguish myself on the screen at certain times, I was able to prevail and truck on. With the top-notch visual design, I really enjoyed experiencing the atmosphere that the developers created. So whether you are jumping over chasms, pouncing on weakened bosses, or scratching your head on a hard to solve puzzle, you are sure to have a great time playing through this beautiful and challenging title.