Tag Archives: platformer

Game Review: Mirror’s Edge

Have you ever been playing a game that made you scream so much, your roommates came in your room wondering what you issue was?  Well, that was my experience with Mirror’s Edge.  Or at least it would’ve been, had after the first rage-inducing moments not wizened me up & I made sure to only play the game when no one else was at home.  So what was it about this game that made me continually yell & curse at a pixelated character?

I didn't realize until the end that the game's logo is Faith's eye

I didn’t realize until the end that the game’s logo is Faith’s eye

Mirror’s Edge takes place in one of the classic futuristic scenarios: a utopian-shell of a society that’s actually a totalitarian dictatorship.  In this Big Brother future, you play as Faith, a Runner.  Runners act as illegal couriers, smuggling messages & packages along the rooftops.  Faith quickly becomes embroiled in a conspiracy to cover up a mayoral candidate’s assassination.  When her sister, a cop, is framed for the murder, Faith sets out to use her skills & contacts to track down why the candidate was killed & who was responsible.  But the cops aren’t going to make that easy, given that Faith herself is a suspect for removing evidence from the crime scene.

Hope you're not afraid of heights

Hope you’re not afraid of heights

Mirror’s Edge is a parkour-platformer set entirely in first-person.  The game alternates between platforming “puzzles,” where you must navigate various city obstacles to reach your goal, & combat.  Faith can use a variety of abilities to reach her destination, from wall running to zip lines.  Although Faith doesn’t carry any weapons, she is skilled in unarmed combat, using her speed to take out enemies.  She can also disarm enemies, & use their guns if she feels so inclined.  To help in disarming, players can activate Reaction Time, which slows things down momentarily, making it easy to read the cues when you can safely disarm someone.

Narrative: I can’t help feeling there’s a lot of things the game just fell flat at conveying.  The overall plot makes sense, in that I get what’s going on, but there are a lot of nuances that just don’t stick.  The big one to me was why is this new government so bad?  I get the sense they’re going for this Big Brother vibe, but I just don’t see it.  The game just doesn’t show why the government is bad & why the Runners are good.  It only mentions protests twenty years prior to the start of the game, where Faith’s mom was killed when they devolved into riots when the police tried to stop them, but they never just come out & say, “This is why they’re bad.”  It’s like we’re just expected to take for granted that the government’s bad.  It can’t be all bad if the only crime that exists is illegal communiques.  I was also a bit lost about the whole Project Icarus thing.  So the government wanted to train soldiers to hunt the Runners to bring the Runners under government control to work as terrorists?  The ending was also crap.  It just ends with Faith & Kate standing on the top of a skyscraper.  Great, I saved my sister.  But what about all those soldiers who were trying to shoot me three seconds ago?  Did they just give up because I blew up their helicopter?  Aside from those complaints, most of the characters had distinctive personalities, & I felt they did a good job of establishing the relationship between Faith & Merc.  But (again) I saw that double-cross coming a mile away.  So overall, the plot is serviceable, but expected the player to believe more than what the game provides for.  Score: 3

Takes guts to fight a swat team unarmed

Takes guts to fight a swat team unarmed

Mechanics: I really could’ve gotten into this game… if it hadn’t worked so hard against itself.  The first-person view really lends itself to getting you immersed in what you’re doing.  Scenery blurs as you run, the camera wobbles, & you can see your arms & legs.  But every time I started getting in the flow the game, becoming one with the parkour path, the game would knock me out of it like getting hit by a semi.  The two biggest problems in terms of gameplay are the combat & controls.  The game relies too much in later levels on making you take on large groups of enemies, & you can’t progress until you do.  But the combat system isn’t geared for fighting large groups.  It’s more designed for taking on a few enemies scattered out.  Faith can regen health, but she can’t take many hits.  A problem that becomes very noticeable in the last two chapters when enemies get machine guns.  The game would’ve felt so much better if they either stuck to smaller groups of enemies or letting me run away from them all together.  I really enjoyed the scenes were I had to duck & dive from a sniper or run away from Runner-trained soldiers.  Those parts were exhilarating.  The second problem is that the controls aren’t precise enough for the platforming, especially later.  I found Faith moving at times I didn’t tell her to, usually resulting in her falling off a narrow ledge.  I also found myself glitching through some of the obstacles, somehow climbing up places I’m pretty sure I wasn’t supposed to be able to climb.  I think a lot of these issues could’ve been avoided if they’d used different buttons for jumping & climbing.  As I said, it’s a shame these problems draw you out of the experience so much, because there are nice sequences that really make you feel them.  Score: 3

Moody art

Moody art

Aesthetics: Mirror’s Edge has two distinct styles.  In-game, the visuals are nice & crisp, with plenty of bloom & contrasting colors.  I really like the aesthetics of the city.  It looks slightly futuristic; like everything has this metallic sheen to it.  I think it lends well to the feel of being on a rooftop.  The colors also make it easy to see the bright red items that mark your path.  During the cutscenes, however, the style is simpler.  They use cell-shaded animation.  It’s a matter of personal taste whether you like this stye, but I think the sharp contrasts in color and shading fit in well with the regular look of the game.  It kinda looks… harsh.  Edgy, I guess.  The sound design is also pretty good.  I liked the music in this game, although I noticed it tends to fade in & out at random.  It’s electronica, so some people might not like it, but again I think it fits with the game’s themes.  The voiceacting is also pretty good.  Score: 5

Replay Value: Limited.  I think the replay value for most gamers will come from the time trials & race options.  These are smaller snippets from the levels where you compete for a faster time.  You can also download other gamers’ “ghosts” to race against.  I think for players who liked the parkour aspect, they’ll get the most enjoyment out of these levels.  Score: 3

Breakdown

Untitled

Overall Score: 3

Final Word: Mirror’s Edge is an interesting attempt at something new that doesn’t quite meet expectations.  Hopefully, if there is to be a Mirror’s Edge 2, the developers will learn from others’ critiques & focus more on parkour & less on fighting.  But as it stands, I think it’s at least a good rent for someone with a weekend to spare.

– GamerDame

Title: Mirror’s Edge
Console: PC, PS3, 360, iOS
Rating: T
Developer: EA Digital Illusions CE
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: November 11, 2008

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Filed under PC, Platformer, PS3, Reviews, XBox 360

Game Review: Never Alone

Retellings of folklore is a common theme in videogames, but rarely has there been a game that presents a tale I’m not at least somewhat familiar with.  Between my interest in Asian culture & numerous religious studies classes, it’s not often that I come across a retelling in game format that I haven’t at least heard about.  But Never Alone has managed to be one of the few games to not only present a story whose origins I wasn’t familiar with, but to introduce me to cultural ideas that were completely new.

Not to be confused with forever alone

Not to be confused with forever alone

Never Alone integrates several legends from the indigenous people of Alaska to create a singular story about a young girl named Nuna who sets out from her village to find the source of an eternal blizzard threatening their way of life.  Along the way, she is both hindered & aided by spirits, one of which is an arctic fox who joins Nuna to help her along her quest.  As she searches for the storm’s source, Nuna & the fox must contend with Manslayers, polar bears, the souls of lost children, & other obstacles.

Most adorable protagonists ever?

Most adorable protagonists ever?

Developers Upper One Games describes Never Alone as an atmospheric puzzle-platformer.  You control either Nuna or the fox separately, switching between them to solve puzzles to continue your journey.  Or you can play co-op & one person controls each.  The two have distinctive abilities that make them better suited for different obstacles.  Nuna can use a bola, a throwing weapon, to break obstacles & can drag items.  The fox can fit through small gaps, wall run & make spirits visible.  As the game progresses, you’ll need to use both in tandem to solve puzzles.

Narrative: Although Never Alone weaves several indigenous stories together, I never felt confused by any of it.  While the specific legends & contexts were different, I think anyone who’s ever heard at least one fairytale will recognize a lot of the themes.  It’s about a girl overcoming supernatural problems much bigger than herself through wit.  For the aspects that are unique to indigenous Alaskan culture, the game helpfully provides short vignettes that explain their significance.  I also found the story to be told in an interesting way.  The story of Never Alone is told through a combination of action & narration.  There’s no spoken dialogue in the game, save for the storyteller narrating the finer points.  Aside from that, the story is told by seeing, as you control Nuna & the fox.  I really felt like it set the tone of this being a fable retold to a new audience, which I believe was the goal of the game.  As for the story itself, I enjoyed it.  I’ve always gravitated to stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things simply because someone has to do it (as opposed to some prophesied hero).  And even without words, the game did a good job of showing the closeness between Nuna & the fox, which was adorable.  Although I would like to point out that (if you read my First Impressions) I was right about the fox’s fate, though it wasn’t as depressing as I was expecting.  So overall, I think it did an admirable job of retelling a story that is both new & familiar.  Score: 4

Who knew the auroras were children's spirits that will steal your head to play ball

Who knew the auroras were children’s spirits that will steal your head to play ball

Mechanics: Never Alone controls as you’d expect a puzzle-platformer to.  You run, jump & climb.  I liked that each character had unique abilities needed to overcome obstacles.  The puzzles are also fairly well-done, requiring a bit of trail & error without being frustrating.  For the most part, the game handled well, with a few exceptions.  I found it a bit tricky to use the bola.  To throw the bola, you have to move the R-stick in the opposite direction you want to throw it then move the stick in the direction.  This works fine if what you’re aiming at something directly in front of you.  But when you’re aiming at an angle, it can be hard to judge it.  It doesn’t help that a lot of times you’re running from something when you’re doing this, & you can’t move & throw the bola at the same time.  Another control issue was that whichever character you’re not controlling follows you.  Normally, this is a good thing, except when you have to move a character to a different section to solve a puzzle for the other to pass.  Frequently the non-controlled character will try to follow, climbing onto platforms they don’t need to be on.  This is usually just a nuisance, but occasionally it got me killed.  For example, in one section I had to move the fox to a higher platform to make spirits appear for Nuna to jump across.  But when I controlled Nuna, the fox would move, making the spirits disappear & Nuna fall to her death.  It doesn’t happen a lot, but enough to be noticeable.  Also, towards the end of the game, it seems pretty apparent the game was designed for co-op, because a lot of the platforming challenges require you to use the characters in tandem.  It’s possible to do these on your own, but it would be a lot easier if you have two people controlling the characters separately.  Overall these are more recurring frustrations that do somewhat take away from the experience.  Score: 3

Made to resemble carvings

Made to resemble carvings

Aesthetics: Overall, I found the game’s presentation mixed.  On the one hand, the character models & designs are nice, but it can be difficult to notice this.  Because of the arctic setting, a lot of the environments look barren & lifeless.  And while that’s to be expected (I hardly expected flowers in the tundra) there are times when the game shows how detailed it can be.  When the game mixes it up with lighting & shading effects, you get a glimpse of how nice it actually looks.  It’s just that most of the time the game looks stark.  But as I said, I do like the designs.  I have to give them credit for the level designed around the ice giant.  I wasn’t thrilled by the art style used in some of the cutscenes, either, but as they were using traditional art techniques it’s understandable.  There’s also almost no music in the game, which I found confusing.  I figured they’d want to demonstrate indigenous music, but for the most part it’s just the sound of the wind.  So I guess overall, not bad but not as good as it could have been.  Score: 3

Replay Value: Fairly low.  Unless you want to play co-op, there isn’t much reason to play a second time.  But once you beat the game, you get a chapter select option, so if there’s a portion you particularly liked, or you’re a completionist & missed a few vignettes, you can replay that section.  Which is a shame, given how short the game actually is.  Score: 2

Breakdown

untitledOverall Score: 3

Final words: Never Alone encourages developers to tell new tales, bringing the cultures of others to a new medium.  However, while the game’s a fun little romp through a new setting, it’s a bit short for the pricetag.  If you’re interested, I’d wait until the price goes down somewhat.

– GamerDame

Title: Never Alone
Console: PC, PS4 & XB1
Rating: T
Developers: Upper One Games & E-Line Media
Publisher: E-Line Media
Release Date: November 18, 2014

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Filed under 3, Indie, PC, Platformer, PS4, Reviews, XBox One