With so many games constantly hitting the Nintendo eShop left, right and centre, it can be easy to overlook the small treasures lost within the noise. Embers of Mirrim happens to be one of those little gems that managed to completely fly under my radar until very recently, despite its initial release on other platforms way back in May. This ambidextrous 2.5D adventure manages to take an interesting concept, and rather than overuse a good idea, it continuously evolves it instead.
We begin our journey with two feathered feline-like creatures from breeds of opposing shades. You are introduced to each one separately, grasping a feel of their individual skills until suddenly, they meet in a heated confrontation with the intent to prove their dominance over one another. Suddenly, they become fused together into a single unit known as Mirrim and are forced to work together to eradicate the life-threatening corruption that plagues the land.
Not only do they share the unique abilities that both animals possess, they can split into two separate embers as well. Each ember is controlled independently with the analogue sticks and, before you know it, you are giving both hemispheres of your brain a bit of a work out as a result. One ember is green, the other is purple. If one strays too far apart from the other, you begin to feel the invisible elastic that binds them stretching thinly as if it is about to snap. They also cannot stay active while detached for very long without burning out, not without a little external help at least.
To keep your energy flowing, your ember must react with elements of the same colour. This leads to puzzles of coordination as you mind-bendingly steer each ember along their own trackline simultaneously until you find a safe spot to rejoin. One of the more common components sees you blasting out of these colour coded contraptions like Donkey Kong out of a barrel while others allow you to freely aim them. The sections are entwined with simple but satisfying platforming as the environments around you set a gorgeous ambience for you to sprint and glide through.
The transition between platformer and puzzler is seamless, with clever ways to keep it feeling fresh until the credits roll.
One moment, you are splitting up to navigate through puzzle-induced giant tree trunks cascading above a restless waterfall, the next you are getting chased to your wit’s end while making full use of your abilities. There are some genuinely clever ideas at play here that I don’t want to spoil that take full advantage of its mechanics. The overall multitasking nature in Embers of Mirrim may possibly prove a bit too taxing for some, but with generous checkpoints and instant restarts, you rarely feel punished as a result. Personally, I found that I didn’t struggle with it as much as I thought I would, though there are special glyphs hidden throughout the levels that can prove to become quite taxing.
The plot in Embers of Mirrim is silent and brief, using nothing but body language to tell its story. As much as you can clearly see that it’s been crafted on a modest budget, the visuals are tooled in a way that emphasizes the beauty of the land. Moments like running along the back of a giant serpent-like creature truly bring out the scope of the atmosphere, with the camera cinematically stretching out the landscape that drives it all further. What truly ties everything together though is the music. It flows with the mood wonderfully, with subtle orchestral tones in the more reclined moments to the thunderous and epic sounds during the more dramatic and fast-paced sequences.
However, it is a relatively short experience with no additional features that I could find. You do have the 28 hidden glyphs to uncover and conquer along with finding and saving your own kind, but it would’ve been great to see some sort of timed events or a set of expert trials to truly test the old motor skills. What I did appreciate was how it shows what you are missing on each level through the stage select option. It saves blindly wandering around aimlessly looking for something that may or may not be there.
Embers of Mirrim is a gorgeous little title that can be easily overlooked until you actually see it in motion. It has the atmosphere of Journey, with a hint of Ori and the Blind Forest wrapped with scenic landscapes that wouldn’t look out of place in Pandora. The splitting mechanic sets up some fun puzzling sections with a subtle push to ease you into its control system. Combine that with boss battles that you have to think about along with a fantastic musical score and you have a brief but memorable experience that feels nicely at home on the Nintendo Switch.