Last year I gave Embers of Mirrim a spin on the PlayStation 4, and I ended up enjoying it immensely. It was conceptually a simple puzzle game, but the developers were creative enough to extend the concept in numerous enjoyable ways, marrying it to a beautifully simple premise that compelled me to finish the entire game in one sitting. Now Embers of Mirrim has made its way to the Nintendo Switch, which is quickly becoming a haven for excellent independent games. Does the game still hold up, or has something been lost in the transition?
This game has you play as two cat creatures, Mir and Rim, who gain powerful abilities before merging together into one being, Mirrim. Your land is being taken over by a dark corrupting force, and Mir and Rim must unite their two warring factions while cleansing the land of corruption. It's a simple plot, told entirely without dialogue, and frankly I wish more indie games would do this. It feels artistic in its delivery, and added a deep level of charm to the whole affair, which already had plenty on its own.
The gameplay revolves around Mirrim's ability to split into two sparks of light, known as embers, which can travel through the air for a few moments, with each ember unable to stray too far from the other; they're basically attached together by an invisible rubber band. Each of the two control sticks moves one of the two embers, and you'll have to get good at moving each one independently if you want to get through this game. The developers stretch this in lots of creative way, combining simple puzzles, mazes, high-speed chases, and enemy interactions. The concept is similar to Semispheres, which I also reviewed, but fleshed out far better.
The Switch version of the game is the same one that appeared on Sony's platform, so there isn't a whole lot to say that hasn't been said before. For a more detailed review of the gameplay, check out my old PlayStation 4 review of the game. If you already know how the game works, rest assured that this is the same excellent title as before, just in a different form factor, and now portable. The main question is: what has changed in the transition to the Switch? What sacrifices have been made? The answer is: almost none.
Graphically, the game still looks wonderful. I played the game mainly in handheld mode, which I usually do with Switch games, and on the small screen the environments looked as detailed, crisp and colorful as ever. In some cutscenes I experienced a bit of a framerate drop, but never during the actual gameplay when it mattered. The biggest issue I encountered graphically is that when the camera zooms really far out, it can be difficult to see where Mirrim is on the screen, as he's now absolutely tiny. I took a handful of deaths because I couldn't find my character, only for them to fall to their death. This didn't impact my enjoyment of the game much, though, and if you play it on the TV it's no problem at all. The sound is the same as before, as well, and it's quite an enjoyable game to listen to.
I lamented in my PlayStation 4 review that some of the puzzles were made more difficult because I would have to control the two embers one on top of the other, but the two control sticks were side by side. The Switch, however, lets you physically move the two Joycons so that they are literally on top of each other; they can be wherever you want, really. I thought that this might make the game less difficult, but in my experience it really didn't help very much. This strategy actually made things a little harder, especially if I tried to move the Joycons in time with the sparks, which horribly overloaded my poor, tiny brain. Ultimately, what I need is a top and bottom arm.
In fact, the Joycons actually make this game harder to play, in certain areas. The problem is that each Joycon has its control stick in a drastically different area, which makes it nearly impossible to make symmetrical movements correctly, especially if the two embers are on top of each other. Your thumbs are not lined up in the same place and they can't make the exact same movements, and trying to make the exact same movements is surprisingly uncomfortable. I would recommend using the Pro controller to play this game if you have one, but if you do have Joycons it's not the end of the world; you might tear your hair out a bit at some puzzles, but I was doing that on the PlayStation 4 too. The added benefit of this game now being portable evens things out, in my opinion.
One omission I lament a little bit is the lack of trophies. The PS4 version had some well-named trophies, and they encouraged you to try and complete the game 100%; the Switch, sadly, has no such system in place. This really isn't that big of a complaint, but it's something that I thought was worth mentioning. The game encourages you to go back and complete all of the hidden glyph puzzles, as well as finding all of the corrupted cat creatures, which is the only way to see the game's true ending. Once you've done all that, though, it's hard to say that you should give this game another spin; once I was done, I was done.
At the end of the day, though, Embers of Mirrim is still the same game that I loved on Sony's platform, except now I can play it wherever I like. It's a bit of a short ride, but it's one of the more enjoyable and charming puzzle platformers I've played in years, and it's worth your time. If you already own it on another system, there isn't anything new here, but the portability might be the excuse you need to give it another go-around. If you've never played it before, you should definitely give it a shot. Just be prepared for some truly mind-bending puzzles along the way.
Final score: 9 out of 10
A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of review.