Degrees of Separation, by Moondrop and Modus Games, is about the intimate relationship between polar opposites. Fire and Ice, hot and cold, winter and summer. The story, written by Chris Avellone, left me feeling hot and cold for this game.
The game follows the journey of Ember and Rime. Ember is a young woman blessed with the power of warmth and growth. Everything around her seems to bloom, as if in eternal spring. Rime is the complete opposite. A young man surrounded by ice and cold. Winter follows his steps. They find each other early on in the game, their powers interacting to solve puzzles and progress.
While the story and narration are very strong early on, it seems to slow down to a snail’s pace in the later portions of the game.The lack of meaningful interaction between Rime and Ember is disappointing . There are no animations or lines, which seems to be a huge missed opportunity for immersion and emotional investment in this title.
This game is best played with someone beside you. Whether it be a spouse, child, or friend. I played by myself for a few hours and found the experience frustrating and tedious. Progression in the game revolves around using a dividing line between the two main characters to manipulate the environment to solve increasingly difficult and complex puzzles.
Playing solo means constantly switching between the two main characters and trying to get them positioned just right. The game can require exacting character placement in a few instances that are downright infuriating in a platformer.
Most of the puzzles in the game involve you traversing obstacles by using Ember and Rime’s powers to manipulate the environment around them. You can move about the screen to either freeze or melt geysers, operate elevators and platforms, or use natuarl vents to propel yourself across gaps.
As the game progresses, each area introduces new mechanics, such as launching platforms, rolling chains, and the ability to explode the barrier between Ember and Rime. This allows you to access areas that were inaccessible before.
While the puzzles are mostly fun and only moderately difficult to figure out, there were a few that left me feeling lost and frustrated. This can be compounded if playing with a random person who ends up working towards a separate goal or idea.
The control scheme is exceedingly simple, and in my opinion best utilized with a controller. Although I had no difficulty using mouse and keyboard, many will find controllers more familiar.
The artwork in the game is gorgeous and flowing to start. The world seamlessly transitions from warm summer environs of golds, greens, and browns, to cold bleak wastes in blues, greys, and white in the blink of an eye. I was completely enamored with the setting, to begin with, but found it somewhat drab as the hours wore on. Each level of the game seemed to be more of the same thing stuck on repeat.
The narration in this game is one of my favorite aspects. The narrator hits all of the right tones and exudes the proper emotional inflections in the important moments.
The soundtrack was neither horrible or spectacular. It seemed, adequate, for the setting. The sound effects in the game seemed to be a little excessive and abrasive as time wore on. Each grunt from the characters anytime you jumped or climbed, which you do constantly, led me to mute my game and put some of my own music on in the background.
Degrees of Separation is a novel, fun idea that was realized into a unique gameplay experience. However, I judge most games on a simple question. Would I play this game again? The answer is no. There is no replay value whatsoever. Consequently, once I had completed the story, I had no desire to go back and play anything over. The game executed very well on a few things, the narration and artwork. However, the basic premise of the gameplay mechanics can make it tedious and frustrating too often for my taste.
If puzzle platformers and good artwork are something you enjoy, this may be worth a try. Otherwise, you can probably skip this one. I rated this title two out of five.