Video games are usually been defined by the genres that they’re created under. An action game will always be an action game, a racer will always be a racer, and so on. At times we may receive a game which combines genres to present something unique in what it strives for, but even then it’s apparent what the true soul of the game is.
Rarely do we see games these days which opt to break free from the mold of an established genre or use one so loosely that’s almost just a template of sorts to build upon an experience that is staggering in what it accomplishes. By opting not to immediately follow the pre-defined notions of a particular genre, the team at Santa Ragione have given us the latest game to show that video games can indeed be elevated to the status of art with the arrival of MirrorMoon EP.
Expanding upon their original concept for MirrorMoon, the EP (that’s Extended Play) edition essentially is a full-on title rather than a brief vertical slice/prototype. Chances are some of you may not have played MirrorMoon previously, so in some ways you may be shocked by what the game does and how it manages to transcends an experience which is generally a puzzle game into one that’s an interactive piece of art that never once goes into territory that betrays its origins as a video game.
The basis of MirrorMoon EP is that it’s a sci-fi exploration game set on small planetoids. Presented with lush visuals featuring simplistic textures, almost of a cell-shaded style, the premise of the game had me trying to complete various puzzle like objectives – all of which are never explicitly stated as far as what needs to be done in the form of on-screen indicators or instructions. The immediate standout part of MirrorMoon EP is that a special device allowed me to rotate the direction of the nearby moon/planetoid, in some cases moving the planet to see the location of certain objects to complete puzzles or doing more radical things such as making it go from night to day in the blink of an eye.
At first it can be slightly disorienting as to how to complete a stage since there’s absolutely nothing telling the player what to do. The tools and locations are simply given to you and then it’s a case of using some old-fashioned brain powered to figure out how to utilize some of the new features you may have at your disposal. Moments of frustration may be abound whilst playing the game, though I mostly had a tranquil demeanor since the music is mesmerizing, and slightly haunting, and I just had a fun time looking at the visuals that were being bestowed upon my eyes.
The isolated nature of MirrorMoon EP is one of the biggest strengths of the game since it creates a feeling and sense of mystery that many games never achieve. Not knowing what you’ll come across next whilst traversing a planet or what tool you may grab to further aid your journey of exploration is something that I found to be amazing since the game wasn’t following a very obvious series of puzzle game design tropes. The base nature of MirrorMoon EP may be one in which the player needs to figure things out and do specific tasks in order to progress, though the design philosophy Santa Ragione has taken with the game is one that is fresh and natural in its execution.
Additional game enhancements come in the form of a fully realized universe of planets to explore and even claim your stake on. With the ability to name the planet you’ve explored, as long as no one else has claimed it, there’s a lot to do within MirrorMoon EP, especially when factoring in that planets are procedurally generated. Some of the immediate vagueness that Santa Ragione has taken with MirrorMoon EP does distract from the game since there aren’t any messages telling the player how to travel to new planets. I personally didn’t mind having to actually explore in a game, though I have a feeling that other people may totally buckle under trying to decipher how to use the main controls of the ship UI.
MirrorMoon EP stands out to me so much since there’s a loose plot/set-up, but there’s no narrative nor is there any immediate lore. It’s the lack of details about the game which I find so compelling since the world and general style that Santa Ragione has presented is so detailed and interesting that it allowed me to in a way create my own thoughts and ideas as to what was going on. Accomplishing a feat such as having the world be so engaging and interesting that it makes the player in a way build up their own fiction as they play is what sets the amazing developers apart from those who are simply good.
The style of MirrorMoon is one that manages to be lush despite not going overboard with the amount of details or objects that are on-screen at any given moment. Often showing a barren landscape of nothing but the color of the planet and the skyline amidst abstract shapes and structures, there’s a sense of beauty in the game since it’s easy to grasp onto the look and become memorized by what’s being displayed. Such a thing is especially true later on in some of the more elaborate stages or by coming across some of the mysterious structures that are present in the almost barren landscape of a planet.
I was also fascinated by the direction that Santa Ragione took with MirrorMoon EP since it in some ways manages to have a retro, and almost pure, sci-fi style to it. Booting the game up by activating the dash-board control of the ship the player uses to navigate, the design of the MirrorMoon world almost seems befitting to stuff we would’ve seen in the 1970s, an era which was almost the artistic renaissance for providing futuristic images that were captivating and entirely original as seen by artists such as Moebius.
MirrorMoon EP is simply a brilliant game that takes a genre, builds upon it in a way that’s rather ingenious in how things are executed, and simply offers a sense of style that is simply masterful. Not having a series of objectives painfully be laid out may throw some people off given the feeling of desolation that’s present within the game, though MirrorMoon EP is a game that pushes the video game industry as a whole beyond its traditional conventions to provide a game that is a perfect example of the great heights that can be a achieved when a development team thinks outside the box and is simply dedicated to their vision.
A review code was provided for this game.
Article originally posted on September 11, 2013