Embers of Mirrim (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Renan Fontes 19.12.2017 2

Review for Embers of Mirrim on Nintendo Switch

Silence is one of the most powerful tools available to a creator. The absence of sound can underscore a scene, prove a point, or build anticipation to that one defining moment. For a videogame, silence is not just a lack of sound. Oftentimes, and in its most poignant state, it is a lack of dialogue. As much as can be said with silence, arguably more can be said with interactivity scored only by sound effects and music. Embers of Mirrim (reviewed on PC previously) is a platformer, but it's also a valuable lesson in how to tell a subtle story, one filled with meaning, without the need for a single word.

The dichotomy between light and dark is one that lends itself to all sorts of storytelling. One cannot live without the other, yet both are counterparts nonetheless. It's a simple concept, one that dates back to Biblical times, but simplicity has never been inherently bad. Embers of Mirrim utilises this duality, not only to tell its story but also as a basis for its core gameplay mechanic.

Just as light and dark are analogue to one another, so are the actual analogue sticks. Gameplay consists of the traditional platformer fare with the player character, Mirrim, running left to right, jumping, ground-pounding via a pounce, and gliding by holding down the jump button. The gameplay starts to get less traditional, however, once Mirrim splits off into the two embers it's comprised of.

Screenshot for Embers of Mirrim on Nintendo Switch

By holding down the shoulder buttons, Mirrim can split off into a light and a dark ember. Once split, the left analogue stick controls the light ember and the right controls the dark. Splitting is necessary in making progress as it is often the only method of vertical movement. There are limitations, however, that restrict the mechanic from breaking the conventions of traditional platforming.

Splitting off only lasts for a few seconds before both embers are forced to combine back into Mirrim. This means the platforming challenges can't just be embered across. More importantly, obstacles in the form of coloured, passable walls force Mirrim to take on different forms to proceed. Orange walls don't allow Mirrim to split off, forcing them to have to platform; green walls need to be traversed via the light ember; and purple walls traversed via the dark ember.

Gameplay isn't as simple as being the right form at the right time, though. The most challenging moments always involve manoeuvring both embers in perfect unison. There will be moments where Mirrim will stumble upon a path blocked by side-by-side green and purple walls, prompting simultaneous ember action. In these instances, the walls typically share a mirrored pattern. Part of what makes manoeuvrability so difficult is the fact that the analogue sticks need to move in a way that's totally reflective of one another. This goes against all muscle memory, and is difficult to adjust to, but makes for incredibly rewarding gameplay.

Screenshot for Embers of Mirrim on Nintendo Switch

When the embers are too far apart, movement becomes incredibly strained. The further one ember gets from the other, the heavier the controls will feel. More pressing, there is a time limit for how long Mirrim can stay embered. In the centre of each ember, there is a circle that will slowly burn out, signifying the return to Mirrim. Thankfully, there are items that allow an ember's time to be restored and walls remove the time limit altogether since the challenge is instead focused on intense hand-eye co-ordination.

In challenges where there are no coloured walls, embers can pass through coloured diamonds to restore their respective time limits. At its hardest, Mirrim will have to split off and alternate between traversing through walls and hitting every possible diamond to progress.


 
While the core gameplay is consistently difficult, there are optional side encounters that completely blow the main game out of the water. Glyphs are optional challenges that Mirrim can complete in any given level. Glyphs require moving around both embers in sophisticated patterns to complete. Since these are optional encounters, they act as brutal tests of the mechanics. They don't seem to offer a reward outside of simple completion; a reward doesn't have to be incentivised for gameplay to be rewarding.

Good gameplay can only be enhanced by a good story and, while unorthodoxly told, Embers of Mirrim's narrative is a fascinating take on a classic premise. In the face of an unnatural invasion, two members of rival factions become embers and merge together to create Mirrim. Without a single line of dialogue, Mirrim's adventure manages to convey everything it needs to tell its story entirely through actions.

Screenshot for Embers of Mirrim on Nintendo Switch

This is a tale of unity, of coming together against a common foe. More importantly, it is a tale about self-reflection. If two forces that were one pitted against each other can come together to achieve one goal, was their feud worth the trouble in the first place? Is any feud?

As powerful as the narrative is, the visuals are the clear star here. Beautiful environments and a haunting soundtrack bring Mirrim's world to life. The chaos corrupting it feels like a legitimate danger, not through any stakes but because the world is portrayed in a way where it was once so clearly untouched. Unfortunately, there are pop-up issues in cut-scenes that can be distracting, to say the least, but they are hardly bad enough to ruin what is an otherwise phenomenal experience. Embers of Mirrim is a strange, beautiful platformer that will be sure to stick in the back of the mind for quite a long while.

Screenshot for Embers of Mirrim on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Abstract and downright mesmerising, Embers Of Mirrim is one of the most impressive platformers this generation. Not shy to difficulty, the mechanics take a great deal of reflexive skill and hand-eye co-ordination to master, but they never feel impossible to grasp. The split mechanic requires the use of both analogue sticks, often in synchronicity, and is only enhanced by level design that encourages skilled play while also not keeping anyone struggling to adapt to the control scheme out. Its greatest strength, however, is how immersive and breathtaking it is. A voiceless narrative is underscored by a beautiful score and settings that suck the player in. Embers of Mirrim is unconventional and often bizarre in presentation, but that's exactly why it leaves such a strong, lasting impression.

Developer

Creative Bytes Studios

Publisher

Creative Bytes Studios

Genre

2D Platformer

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

Im glad to see someone else enjoyed this. It really is a fantastic game.

Okay, I just finished the Switch demo, which is surprisingly long and takes you all the way through to the first boss...and whilst I really enjoyed the concept at first, it started to get quite repetitive after a while, to the point where I was just desperate to finish the boss and complete the demo.

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

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