Separation can be defined as “the action or state of moving or being moved apart”. This perfectly describes the situation between Ember and Rime. These two adolescents are compelled to begin their day by moving toward one another from separate ends of the world, Ember from a warm forest and Rime from a castle of ice. They finally meet but the very worlds that are collapsing around them are what keeps them separate. By cleverly working together, they can save their homes.
The story in Degrees of Separation begins suddenly. Outside of learning the worlds of these two characters are dying, not much else is known. The story is told as the player progresses through the game, collecting scarves to unlock more doors. There’s an entire kingdom that seems abandoned, and the only way to learn more about the past is to continue playing. However, because the story is being told at the same time the player is exploring, platforming, and taking in the beautiful scenery, it is possible to miss some information. Subtitles are provided, but the voice actor that delivers the story does a great job of luring the player back for more. I was always wanting to reach that next area that would trigger more story.
Ember (a small piece of burning or glowing coal or wood in a dying fire) and Rime (frost formed on cold objects by the rapid freezing of water vapor in cloud or fog) must take advantage of the benefits of their worlds. Ember can light fires that lift platforms and use fissures, while Rime can make large snowballs and freeze water. These abilities only scratch the surface of the different tactics the player will utilize to solve complex puzzles.
Another aspect of Degrees of Separation that will keep many players hooked is the graphics and music. Ember and Rime are the two characters you’ll see through the game and are designed like 2D marionettes; Flat, like flexible paper dolls, against a contrasting 3D background of woodland scenery, mountains, castles, and moving parts of old machinery. The music never ceased to amaze. It was always prominent, enhancing the emotions and moods given by the story. Even in the most frustrating of situations, the soundtrack helps players imagine scenarios between Ember and Rime, and their desire to be together as one that seems tragically impossible.
Maneuvering pulley systems and lighting lanterns just right to raise platforms played a big part in puzzle solving for this game. Another part is to wisely utilize platforming skills and avoid overthinking an obstacle. The controls were the only imperfect aspect. Single player was not as difficult as I imagined going into the game. The call button, R bumper, was not successful each time. I tried from different angles and distances but there never seemed to be a reason behind why it worked sometimes and not others. A faster form of travel was available, but I was a couple hours into the game before I realized how it worked. Collected scarves can be seen as white stars across the top of the screen at certain points. Ones that are not collected are black and can be difficult to see if any were missed on certain backgrounds.
Degrees of Separation is an intriguing game with graphics that are pleasing, smooth, and I believe provide the intended effect, accentuated by the soundtrack. The puzzles are mind over matter. Collecting that next scarf by solving the puzzle, as well as continuing on to the next bit of story, is always rewarding. This game is unique, developed well, and lived up to the hype.