Gaming is better together. It’s why multiplayer experiences are so successful. While there is nothing quite like grabbing your own controller and jumping into battle, Moondrop’s new puzzle platformer includes some world-changing ideas that make its cooperative tale stand out from more mainstream online frag fests.
Degrees of Separation is an endearing 2D platform puzzler, developed by indie studio Moondrop ad published by Modus Games. It follows the story of two very different souls. Ember and Rime are two characters drawn from very different worlds. Delicately animated and thrown together in a series of an abandoned world, overtaken by nature, these two separated spirits are held apart by an enigmatic force. Their own worlds of winter and spring seem almost incompatible, pushing the two protagonists apart. It is up to players to guide these two through a blossoming relationship and the challenges that lie ahead.
A Tale For Two
Degrees of Separation is focused primarily on the journey of the game’s two central characters. It can be tackled as both a one and two player experience, but to get the most out of this adventure it is absolutely worth picking up a friend to tackle this with. The game quickly introduces the two protagonists and their plight. Destined to be separated by their own worlds, they inhabit the same screen as they travel forward on their adventure. Revealing a new view of each environment they enter, Rime and Ember are both utterly crucial to the puzzles that pepper Degrees of Separation.
Moving Ember and Rime is an incredibly intuitive experience and even when roping in another player, one more experienced with a keyboard than a controller, we found the simplicity of the game’s control system meant that navigating the 2D environment was simple enough. Interacting with objects is largely a case of hitting one button and many of the game’s environmental puzzles rely on correctly controlling characters to be in the right place at the right time. This means that while areas of the world reveal new secrets to the elements, overcoming problems is as much about logic as reaction time.
Challenges do become a little more complex in Degrees of Separation as Rime and Ember make their way through a range of environments. The inclusion of some interactive objects and skills add an appreciable variety to each puzzle. An early example of this is the ability to create a solid bridge along the barrier between Rime and Ember’s worlds, allowing them to access new areas of the map. Puzzles are impressively thought out without being particularly overbearing, requiring players to use elements like frozen lakes and open water from each character’s season to get around the map.
Using these changes allows Rime and Ember to collect a series of abandoned objects from around the game, unlocking doorways to new realms throughout Degrees of Separation and progressing the narrative. A frequent and wonderfully voice acted narration by Kira Buckland pushes Rime and Ember across the screen at a pace that kept my attention almost all the time. The Soundtrack also lends a hand to the endearing yarn Degrees of Separation weaves. It can emit haunting loneliness or sweeping inspiration just as easily, and definitely tugs on the threads of your heart.
For those looking for a challenge, Degrees of Separation does not scratch that itch. It is not even as problematic as Portal or weird as Grim Fandango. Once you have overcome the issues that Rime and Ember have in front of them, there is little reason to double back. Not even the option of a single player mode entices me to retread this tale.
However, this tale is not a AAA experience. It’s a cute indie quest that takes you on a beautiful journey. It won’t change your world but I can’t help but recommend that you share Rime and Ember’s. Degrees of Separation is out now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Switch.