Posted by: smirkdirk | May 16, 2009

Some Thoughts on Mirror’s Edge

Mirror’s Edge takes place in a fictional city that could be straight out of George Orwell’s 1984. Sterile and frigid, the city is defined by its whites, with sometimes another primary color thrown in to bring things into stark relief – a blue, an orange, or a red – a red surface almost always meaning that this is the way to go. If you get lost – look around for a hint – it’ll be red.

The plot on Mirror’s Edge is told in cut-scenes that look like the animation in Killer 7. The graphics of the gameplay, though not anything particularly new, are beautiful in the way they work in service to the objective of the game – which is running. The reflections off of glass buildings, the shards of sunlight, the starchy white of everything completes the antiseptic, authoritarian mood the game is looking for.

Make no mistake about it, this game is about movement. It is about jumping from surface to surface, wall to wall, shaft to shaft – up and down, and in and out of the stark buildings that make up the totalitarian metropolis. With that in mind and paired with its budget pricing, Mirror’s Edge may seem like the perfect start for a videogame newbie – but make no mistake, it is not. The control scheme is serviceable to the objectives of the game, but those objectives are essentially, the enjoyment of movement, and hitting the buttons and marks in such a way to create a fluid and seamless run through the city. A newbie will not only fail at this, but will quickly lose patience with puzzle-portions where essentially you’re looking around for 20 minutes trying to figure out where to go, or even more frustrating for a newb, seeing exactly where to go, but having to figure out how in the hell to get there. That being said, any fan of puzzle games will find these portions neato-keen.

The running, the puzzles, the authoritarian society which we catch glimpses of through our partner in our headset who helps us through our journeys, through news feeds on tv monitors we run by in various locations, and through electronic bulletin boards often in elevators we have to take while levels load, all add up to a enjoyable 5 to 6 hour experience in story mode.

Where the game does fail is in its fighting the bad guy mechanics. According to the load screens, you can do all kinds of cool fight moves to the bad guys (who are pretty much all cops) – but since you don’t fight that many of them you never really get an opportunity to learn any of these moves – and often, encountering these enemies either is frustrating as hell because you’re surrounded and can only attempt to mash the Y button to steal a gun which works about 50% of the time, or so easy that they really don’t need to be there at all as they’re just an interruption to the exhilarating running – which is what the game is supposed to be about.

As a full disclosure, I will say that I did play the game on easy, but to me this is besides to point -the game is essentially about running, and marketed as such – the combat portions for the most part seem out of place and with a few exceptions, detract from the experience the game is trying to create.

One of those exceptions is a scope rifle portion in one of the last levels where you need to pick off some bad guys one by one and it really blends in well – but by and far, the most frustrating portion is a “boss” fight in the middle of the game in which incessant punching for 15 minutes finally lands you a “win” and the ability to move to the next level, but there is really no skill involved other than putting aside the 15 minutes to punch and wonder if maybe anything is happening, as the enemy is not equipped with any sort of health meter to inform you if you are, in fact, inflicting any damage.

All in all, the running was straight-up great, the puzzle aspects were enjoyable (I’m a puzzle game fan and would recommend this to any other puzzle game fans as the maker’s have truly found a way to create an action/puzzler – a game genre that hasn’t actually been marketed yet.), and the plot – though becoming stereotypical in videogames (How many videogames so far have hung their storylines on the bones of a futuristic, totalitarian society? Answer, quite a few.) worked well in service to the objectives of the game.

The fighting? Meh.

Lastly, (attention survival-horror fans) I should mention that one portion of this game did scare the shit out of me, and made me audibly yelp and physically jump back. I will leave that for you to discover should you play it and get as deeply involved in it as I was in that moment. (One of the big reasons I am a survival horror fan is that videogames are the only medium left for me for this type of primal reaction – literally jumping out of your friggin’ skin. Movies lost this ability with me when I turned about 15.)

After you finish each level, it is then open to you to run through in a time-trial mode either on-line against the world, or off-line trying to beat your own best time. As you complete the game, all levels are open to replay. I’m still amused enough by the running that I will be holding on to the game for now to re-run some of the levels -and see, if at least on the first one I can do a 6 minute run and get an achievement…

In closing, it is worth mentioning that there were quite a few instances while playing that I was reminded of “Portal”, and would suggest this game to the legion of fans of that one.

Interestingly, it seems that the two games have something else in common. A theme song called “Still Alive”. Two different songs, same title – who’d a thunk it?

Here is “Still Alive” from Mirror’s Edge by Lisa Miskovsky. The accompanying video footage of the game pretty much shows you exactly what its about so you can decide for yourself whether or not its your cup of tea:

And here is the awesome, at this point, legendary “Still Alive” from Portal by GLaDOS:

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