Saturday, September 18, 2010

Mirrors Edge (iOS) Review

There’s no denying I was a huge fan of the original Mirror’s Edge when it debuted for the PS3 and Xbox 360 back in 2008. The game represented a substantial leap forward in game design through the first-person perspective. Exploring the dystopian city through the eyes of Faith was breathtaking and the acrobatic parkour, while tricky at times, was incredibly rewarding.

Faith is a Runner, a courier of the future, relaying secret messages under the watchful eye of the government. Runners must leap, slide, and roll across the rooftops of the city, avoiding security forces.

While the first game was innovative, it was not without its flaws; most notably the combat and show-stopping bouts of trial and error. Mirror’s Edge for the iPhone tries to remedy some of the problems by shifting the action to a 2-D side-scrolling perspective, avoiding much of the complexity. Despite being a more bite-sized experience than its console predecessor, Mirror’s Edge manages to retain the overall essence of the franchise while bringing its own unique twist to the core mechanics.

The controls have been replaced by a much simpler series of touch-based gestures. Faith’s forward movement is set by a swipe either to the left or the right, swipe up to jump, swipe down to slide, and mid-air swipes will enable context-sensitive actions such as wall jumps or rolling for soft landings. It’s a good system which works almost all of the time. I had trouble getting Faith to stand up after a slide which usually screwed up my momentum.

The game draws several comparisons to Canabalt, another iPhone favorite, racing players along rooftops, gaining speed as they successfully overcome obstacles. Mirror’s Edge adds a layer of depth to the experience equipping Faith with her trademark abilities.

The production values are incredibly high and really take advantage of the iOS devices. The original art style is vibrant and remains intact as the city flies by without a hint of stuttering. Faith’s model can look a tad strange but EA has delivered a great-looking game which really pops on the new Retina Display. There’s smart, limited use of motion controls that are almost entirely optional. I would have enjoyed a little bit of voice work, especially for Faith, but considering this is on a mobile device I suppose it can’t be helped. However, developers looking to push for such a cinematic experience should remember all parts of the equation, including a voice for the main character if only in small doses. That being said, the soundtrack is spectacular. A remix of the theme “Still Alive” is the highlight of the game’s musical offering while the ability to play your own library is a welcomed addition. The game is extremely rhythmic. Players soon get into a groove, swiping against the beat of the music, sending Faith higher and higher.

The weakest moments come when Faith is constrained to an indoor environment. Without the city buzzing by in the background, the sense of speed gets lost and the indoor levels tend to include some of the more frustrating moments. It’s easy to get tripped up by the armed guards and making mistakes is costly as they riddle Faith with bullets while she has very limited means of defending herself. There are some takedown moves at her disposal and these work well, for the most part, but they occasionally let me down when I needed them most. Thankfully, a generous checkpoint system keeps these issues to a minimum.

The game is rather short, an initial play-through can be done in less than an hour. But the brevity is mostly understandable considering how fast you’re going through these levels. Faith runs at break-neck speed across the cityscape. In addition, the hidden courier bags and speed-run challenges will keep dedicated players coming back for more, ensuring more bang for your buck. Fans of the original who fear all of the intricacies have been taken out should take note there is still plenty of fun to be had for even the most seasoned Runners out there.

Some may be thrown by Mirror’s Edge and its $4.99 price tag but I look at it as if I were going out for something to eat. Sure, you can get something at McDonald’s for 99 cents but sometimes its worth going elsewhere and splurging on that $10 burger knowing a little more care went into making it. Mirror’s Edge uses the iPhone platform to its strengths. The visuals are gorgeous on the new Retina Display, the soundtrack is incredible, the touch controls work well, and the use of motion is not over-done. It might not be priced at the usual impulse snack-sized level iOS gamers have come to expect but it’s certainly a welcomed addition to the App Store and a must-have for anybody looking to show off what the iPhone can do.

Buy the game now on iTunes: Mirror's Edge


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