State of Decay is a 3rd person adventure game set in a post apocalyptic open world… with zombies. The goal of the game is not unlike this year’s indie gem Don’t Starve; build a base, collect supplies, and survive for as long as humanly possible. Perma-death heightens the tension as each and every zombie battle could quickly turn you into worm food. In terms of survival horror, State of Decay does something that other titles of the genre have been trying to accomplish for years, it manages to make the losses real, and the horror truly horrifying.
Embers of Mirrim is a cinematic adventure platformer from Creative Bytes Studios. The game’s titular character posses the unique ability to split into two “embers” in order to separately navigate and influence the environment. Inspired by 80’s fantasy like The Neverending Story, Dark Crystal, and others, Embers of Mirrim is a beautiful game to look at, and offers a tough, yet reasonable, challenge. It is easily a standout platforming game of 2017, and is definitely worth your time. Let’s take a closer look.
As the resident platforming player at Nerd Appropriate, I was excited to play Embers of Mirrim at PAX East in 2016. I was impressed that the small dev team put together a short demo experience that clearly showed off the cinematic power of the game as well as the unique dual ember gameplay mechanic. At that time, the game felt a little rough around the edges, but this was understandable as building a demo often requires a separate build of the game which needs its own dedicated attention. What really stands out, now, about the finish product is just how much improved the game was (mostly from a visual polish perspective) by the formal release.
In this modern era of gaming, I feel like a platforming game really needs to have certain standout qualities in order to not get lost in the sea of this oftentimes nostalgic genre. Embers of Mirrim does not disappoint. In this game, you play as Mirrim, a beast forged from two opposing tribes of beasts that unite in order to drive corruption from their shared world. The game gives you a feel for the traditional mechanics of running, jumping, etc. and then gradually guides the player into the unique experience of splitting Mirrim into two embers. These embers a controlled separately and simultaneously, by using both thumbsticks on the controller! At this point your mind should be reeling, because the challenge is as difficult as it sounds, and really taxes your mental ability and attention, in order to stay out of trouble.
There are “nets” within the game in which the embers can persist indefinitely, however, the embers must stay relatively close to one another before the connection is broken. Thus, there are portions of the game that challenge you to navigate a maze by controlling both embers simultaneously, while keeping their connection close.
At other points within the game, the two embers split apart in the open environment. In these challenges, the distance between them is not as much of an issue as the time that each ember is able to exist outside of the nets is limited. Guiding each ember toward an energy source of a matching color adds precious seconds to their movement… and again, you’ll constantly need to be moving both embers at the same time to conquer the challenges.
Embers are also used to solve hidden puzzles, like the one above, in which the two parts of Mirrim are used to “connect the dots” in order to create a picture. As these are hidden throughout the game, I feel that they represent some of the most challenging dual stick gameplay — and it is so satisfying when you finally work them. out.
The ember system is also useful to augment the general platforming portion of the game. Because the embers are free floating, they can be used to gain a bit of extra height after a jump. The embers also influence other creatures within the environment, which further augment the platforming challenges. It sort of reminds me of flying from barrel to barrel in a donkey kong game, with the precision required of a rayman game. This all sounds complex, but the game does an excellent job of easing you into each new gameplay mechanic.
Mentioned right at the start, this game as a cinematic quality to it that, at times, makes you want to “watch” the game just as much as you are playing it. I mean… look at that giant worm!! I seem to remember from PAX that someone from the dev team had some experience with film and/or cinematography, and it certainty shows in game. The camera always seems to be at the right angle and distance to highlight what is currently important in the scene.
The game also unfolds the narrative through a series of cut scenes. There is a lengthy scene to open the game, and while I am usually not a fan of this, it just kind of works here. The scenes feature no words or speaking of any kind, which leaves the action to tell the story, and really makes the animation and cinematography the heroes of the narrative.
Embers of Mirrim is a beautiful game with solid gameplay mechanics. Fans of platforming games should definitely play this game, but I think the game has an appeal beyond hardcore genre fans as well. Achievement hunters should also play this game, as this game can reasonably be 100% completed in less than 10 hours with a little bit of focused effort (for the connect the dots puzzles). There are no missable achievements, all levels can be replayed, and the devs have kindly put in progress tracking on the chapter select screen for collectibles.
We typically don’t rate things here at NA, but this game has already found a positive response among both players and reviewers on aggregate sites (which is hard to do). Embers of Mirrim finds itself near the top of the pack of platformers in 2017, and should be on your watch lists too. It is currently available on PS4, Xbox One, and Steam.
Embers of Mirrim was reviewed using a digital retail code provided by the publisher.