Embers of Mirrim

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Developer: Creative Bytes
Release Date: May 23, 2017

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


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PS4 Review - 'Embers of Mirrim'

by Brian Dumlao on June 23, 2017 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

Embers of Mirrim is an adventure-platformer where two proud races must set aside their differences and come together, in order to save their world from an alien threat.

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There is something to be said for games that come out of nowhere. From the early days of gaming magazines to our current hyper-connected world, there's been news about a shiny new game that is scheduled to hit in a few weeks or a few years. It's a rarity, then, to see a title pop up on a digital marketplace with no prior marketing and not look like a quick cash grab. While most of these titles can be sketchy, sometimes such a game can be a pleasant surprise. That's the case with Embers of Mirrim.

Two similar but otherwise different creature tribes are called forth by the elder of their kind to hear of a cataclysmic event that is coming to their lands. Both tribes leave the meeting and hope to resolve things on their own, but it doesn't take long before the event is happening before their eyes. One member of each tribe goes to investigate and immediately start quarrelling with one another. Before blows can be traded, both are beamed up by a light and emerge as one creature that possesses the abilities of both individuals. Working together as one being, they journey to save their kin and stop the corruption in their land.

What makes the tale interesting is the conscious decision to tell the story without the use of words. Since your characters are animals, the storytelling is reliant on actions, and there are no facial expressions to help guide it. To that end, it isn't too difficult to tell what's going on. At the same time, if there were supposed to be some nuances in the story, those are completely lost. As long as you enjoy your storytelling in broad strokes, you should be fine.

The basic platforming mechanics aren't anything new. Your character's special abilities include sprinting and taking long leaps. Gliding is optional, and the only attack in your repertoire is a ground pounce that can hurt foes and break fragile ground, though the scarcity of enemies means you'll break the ground more often than you'll actually fight. The hook comes from its use of ember powers. You can split yourself into two balls of light called embers, and both embers can only remain in that state for a short period of time before they return to their solid form. Passing by rifts lets you replenish their power and stay in the ember form for a while longer. The embers also activate certain abilities when used in conjunction with other creatures. For example, using your light ember on a mushroom can make it extend a platform for you, while using the dark ember turns it into a spring that you can launch from instead.

You'll use your platforming skills and ember powers quite often throughout your journey. Before and after you discover your ember powers, you'll often glide over large chasms filled with thorns, time your jumps so you don't stay on a leaf too long before it disappears, and try to outrun an avalanche. The sections that do require them start off quite simply by having you mimic both actions on each thumbstick or go in opposite directions so things are easy to grasp. The difficulty increases by giving you gated areas that can only be traversed in ember form, and you'll soon encounter rifts that do things like shoot you forward in a stage.

It doesn't take long before the game asks you to combine platforming with ember powers. You'll have to make jumps and ensure you'll have enough time in your ember state to reach the rift and continue your journey. You'll frequently be asked to glide out of a gated area to reach a ledge. Where the game really challenges you is in sections that require you to manipulate your embers in very different directions. This wouldn't be too bad if you had the luxury of time, but with such a short energy supply for your embers and the need to constantly hit new rifts to keep the momentum going, these sections are a test of patience and dexterity.

With enough tricky segments that could be potentially frustrating, it is a blessing that the game is very forgiving. Your lives are infinite, and the game is very good at ensuring that you continue in the last safe spot before you died. Best of all, any of the hidden puzzles you encounter and complete are counted if you die or opt to continue another time, saving you the trouble of having to backtrack and finish it all over again.

About the only part of the game that is disappointing are the boss fights. For a game with no enemies other than the bosses, every encounter feels repetitive. You evade their attacks, perform an action to make them vulnerable, hit them in the weak spot, and repeat as necessary. The fights don't provide any excitement, so they feel like another box that needed to be checked since boss fights are a staple in most games. The other boss fights are environmental ones where you're chased by something or have logs falling down on you, so you're forced to navigate to safe areas to get through. A few of those encounters can last so long that they almost feel unbearable.

Since Embers of Mirrim doesn't have any voice acting, it relies solely on the score to set the mood. The epic soundtrack generates a feeling of a grand adventure, and it does so without trying to force solemn moments on the player. While it sounds fine most of the time, there are moments when the volume sounds lower than it should be, and there are segments that sound muffled but should have a bigger impact. Graphically, the texture work on some environmental objects could be better, and the colors on some portions look like they should pop more, but the frame rate is steady, and it looks good overall.

Embers of Mirrim is a solid puzzle platformer. The parts that involve individual thumbstick coordination can be tricky and frustrating at times, but the platforming and twin-stick puzzles provide just the right amount of challenge. It's also forgiving enough for all skill levels, so everyone can enjoy it without getting too hung up on certain parts. Platforming fans, Embers of Mirrim deserves your attention.

Score: 8.0/10

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