Like its playable character, Embers of Mirrim is a game of two halves. One half is a fun platformer built on a solid and interesting set of mechanics, while the other is a steaming pile of shit left behind from the dog/bird/thing you play as. (Editor’s Note: And that’s another mark on the swear tally…) This game has some of the worst set pieces I have ever played through. The section leading up to the last boss is one of the most agonizing gaming experiences I’ve ever had. And yet, I still think Embers of Mirrim is well worth your time.
The game starts with two groups of cat/dragons things meeting to find that an asteroid is heading for earth and that the only safe space is one they have to share together. However, the bird brains decide they’d rather die than not be racist, so the two groups leave. Unfortunately, this story doesn’t have the happy ending of “all the racists fucks get blown up”, and instead we get the much more videogame-y “one from each group merge into each other”. Now, this may be a stretch, but I think the game is trying to say that mixed race children can end racism.
Like I said, the little ferret/eagle thing you play as is half-white, half-black, with the best qualities of both; and the game ends with the player character bringing both groups together. Then again, the late game set pieces are constantly trying to fuck you too, so maybe what the game is really advocating for bestiality. I say it’s best to not think about it
Snark or social commentary aside (I’m still not sure myself), the Mirrim‘s story isn’t too much to get excited about. The wordless storytelling isn’t bad per-say, and there are a few nice moments, but there isn’t a lot to get invested in either. The big heart wrenching moment is well done, but there’s not a lot leading up to it to give the scene any real weight. Even the Mirrim‘s opening, which easily drew me in, had me wondering why one of the rat/pigeons was able to get both groups together despite their obvious hate for each other, and why it grew magic deer horns that turned on a futuristic hologram system. I’m not joking about that – that actually happens. That’s more or less the game’s story in a nut shell; well constructed moments without anything substantial to invest the player.
Once the two furry snake/parrots merge, the game seems to go out of its way to make full use of its core mechanics. On top of the usual sprint, glide, and ground pound moves, you can also split the squirrel/penguins into balls of light and dark “embers” that you control independently. What’s truly impressive is how much developer Creative Bytes Studios manages to do with those mechanics. Certain objects react differently to each ember, meaning you are constantly splitting and recombining to solve puzzles. Embers of Mirrim is constantly throwing new ideas at the player, so even with it’s short run time it never feels redundant.
That is, until somebody somewhere had to pip in with “You know what this really needs? Boss battles and chase scenes!” It’s here where the game’s indie nature really comes to bite it (and you) in the ass. (Editor’s Note: Find way to convert Will’s swearing into an alternative energy source for eternal life. Also, delete this note.) One boss requires you to attack its front and back as it moves across the screen, but you have no way of knowing which ember will effect either part until it’s on screen. To make matters worse, the boss moves just fast enough to make hitting its front half an utter chore. Still, the worst part is the chase leading up to the final boss.
For a long stretch of the chase, you’re forced to separate and are kept in confined areas that force you to restart if you try to exit them. Behind you lies a swarm of bugs that force you to restart on contact, demanding you constantly move forward. In front of you, the boss fires projectiles with ridiculously large hit boxes that (you guessed it!) make you restart if they hit you.
Once you’re out of that, you then have to have each ember hit these little nodes that refill your energy. Miss too many, and the embers won’t move any more, forcing you to restart. If that’s not bad enough, these nodes are constantly shifting, which really fucked with my hand-eye coordination. This section throws so much visual information at the player that I often had a hard time following what I was supposed to do. It wasn’t quite as bad as a bullet hell game, but it was too close for my comfort.
But once all of that is done and the game goes back to just being a platformer I really enjoyed it. It might not be a classic, but you could do a whole lot worse. You may want to hold off until it’s on sale, but Embers of Mirrim is well worth burning for a while. (Editor’s Note: I’m gonna need some ice from that pun…)
Oh, and… something something Heavy Metal! here’s a song with Embers in the title.
Embers of Mirrim was developed by Creative Bytes Studios
Point of Sale: Steam, PS4, Xbox One
William Shelton has awarded Embers of Mirrim the Indie Gamer Team Seal of Approval
$19.99. You may want to wait until those embers burn the price down a little however.