Embers of Mirrim feels like the result of someone just asking, “What if?” What if we used the thus far unnamed genre of asymmetrical dual-stick games as a base, pushed it through a Rayman press, and then infused it with the cinematic flair of the Uncharted franchise? After playing the demo, I can’t say if it’s good or bad, but it certainly is extraordinarily interesting.
Made by a four-person team up in Canada, Embers of Mirrim is a side-scrolling platformer that tells the story of two mystical creatures that must come together to save their world. And, as it turns out in a very early twist, that is a literal joining as they eventually become a single entity with the power to split up into their constituent parts.
When they split into their light and dark halves, each Ember is controlled by one of the sticks sort of like Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. Through this, they engage with different elements of the environment like activating switches, floating through energy fields, and phasing through death walls. Their ability to remain apart, however, quickly drains and you either zip back together or must find means to maintain the separation.
The demo didn’t get into any of the advanced bits you’ll see in the trailer above. Instead, it’s a highly focused slice of the introduction that serves as an incredibly effective tutorial for what each half can achieve apart and then together. None of the puzzles I saw really engage in any sort of dextrous asymmetrical movement, but they do teach you how to think in a different dimension where rules flip on and off based on your current state.
One such example is where you needed to clear a wide gap that led to an odd, U-bend tunnel. By utilizing the light side’s gliding ability, you get the distance, but then you have to release it and drop to get under the bend. To get back up, though, you’ll have to split and float back up together before you join once more on solid ground. It’s straightforward, but it shows some of the deeper complexity the devs are aiming for in the full game.
It also focuses on telling a story. Opting for a visual narrative, there are no voices, giving players an opportunity to interpret scenes and fill in gaps on their own rather than take in explicit notions. This nudges in a cinematic direction, which is somewhat surprising given the small team and the side-scrolling nature, but it works. I ended up deeply intrigued by these curious creatures.
Taking a page from one of the most cinematic video game franchises, the game indulges in Uncharted-style chase sequences. The one in the demo involves running from an avalanche while learning how to use the glide ability, but it’s effective. When it started happening, it was totally unexpected. It even made me sit up a little, anxious to make sure I didn’t miss any jumps and send this little guy to an early grave.
There’s a lot to this demo, even if the actual gameplay is pretty simple. It does what a good demo should do, and that’s show you the promise of what’s to come. And if the final release of Embers of Mirrim delivers on what it showed at PAX South, then we’re all in for a treat.
Embers of Mirrim comes out for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC this spring.