By Tom Hooper aka Atomp
This week we’re back into that familiar territory of stylish indies, where any screenshot taken at any time could well be a piece of modern art. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with MirrorMoon as I couldn’t find much information on it and I think that’s quite intentional. The entire experience is built around the idea of exploration and discovery, of experimentation and problem solving. The game is an exploration game set in space, your role is to travel between systems discovering and deciphering them. You see each system will plant you upon a very small planetoid which will have its own properties, ruins and ultimately a puzzle. As the player you are granted a device which has various components that can be collected from around the planetoid and then used to solve that particular puzzle, opening the option to name that system if not already named. In all there are a lot of elements that remind me of an old game called Noctis, the ability to travel around an enormous procedurally generated universe, discovering planets and then naming them on a collective map. This is honestly one of the reasons I picked up MirrorMoon, and I would recommend giving Noctis a shot even if it is a DOS game with an interesting control scheme.
The game begins with a brief introduction to the planetside puzzle mechanics, going over the basics of what you’ll need to do in order to essentially get off the planet. After this you are dropped into possibly one of my favourite bits of the game, the cockpit. This is an entirely unmarked mixture of unmarked controls, and the process of finding what each of these does and how the ship operates is brilliant. There’s something about having a whole panel of unexplained controls to fiddle with and tweak that’s just really satisfying. Learning to navigate and fly that ship by discovering each little switch, gauge and display is ultimately a very satisfying experience. I won’t give away too much, but the main display that is visible is the star map and through this you can look for star systems to explore, be they already explored or alternatively entirely new. Landing on an unexplored system will present you with a new environment and a puzzle of sorts to unlock the planet and name it. These names are then uploaded to an online database leading to a collaborative exploration effort, multiplayer but not. My one minor gripe would be the weird control scheme that I guess was a result of the porting from the Ouya gamepad to mouse and keyboard, the use of keys to turn in first person feels somewhat clunky.
The single-player is based around much the same as what I’ve described above, although I must be absolutely honest in admitting that I’m not entirely sure how to progress. In fact I probably wouldn’t even know that there was much progression beyond what I was already enjoying had the Steam achievements not hinted towards further gain. I believe the single player revolves around the cassette part of the ship control panel, I’m not entirely sure but eventually I will figure it out as a part of the natural course of the game. Under normal circumstances I would describe this ambiguous player guidance as a failure of game design, however here it is this lack of help and prodding that is the essential core of the game experience. This is a game for a specific audience, much like many of the games I look at. CoD kiddies and TactiLOL BF4 fiends aren’t necessarily going to get much enjoyment out of this and I’d actually recommend they stay clear, failing to heed this advice can they kindly keep their philistine whining off the internet.
The visuals are based around bold-coloured low-poly environments. The result of this is a unique aesthetic that carries MirrorMoon in its own direction. I would quite like a space exploration game of this form with a different style based around a higher-poly higher fidelity style, however that would be an entirely different game. The low-poly aesthetic means that MirrorMoon is a merging of an artistic statement of bold simplicity with space exploration. It is the essence of space exploration pushed through an artistic filter, and then merged with puzzle elements. The game is not like this by accident and the clean design produces an experience that is ultimately very satisfying and attractive. I tell you this to clarify exactly what the game is, best described in comparison to other games I would say that it’s Kairo meets Noctis meets Proteus. The sound design matches the visual aesthetic; simple, clean and deliberate. Unusually for games there is actually a very effective use of silence, making the sounds that do occur even more noticeable as they punctuate the silence of space. Let’s be clear; this is space, but proper space, silent and haunting space rather than the noisy and violent space of so many other games.
The game is available on Ouya, Windows, Mac and Linux. I’d be tempted to say that it should be available on vanilla Android, as the Ouya is nothing more than reskinned Android but official support is not there, I assume because of the lack of touch controls. It would still be nice to have the APK though, even if it was just available to sideload through Humble in order to avoid complaints from those unable to take the giant and incomprehensible leap of connecting a controller to a tablet. Overall though that’s a very reasonable support list and it is especially nice to see Linux there. The game is available through the Ouya store, so all 4 people using an unrooted Ouya for whatever reason can get it there. The best place to get it though would, as ever, be through the Humble Store widget on the game’s website. This will provide a Steam key and DRM free downloads for all non-Ouya platforms. The pricing is similar across the board, however the Humble Store widget has it at $9.99 (approx £6.19) which at the moment, with the current conversion rates puts it cheaper than the £6.99 (approx $11.27) pricing on Steam. This is UK specific of course but I’d bet that the fixed USD pricing is going to beat your specific local currency Steam pricing (at the moment that is).
In short, if you’ve enjoyed things like Kario or Noctis then MirrorMoon is a good bet for you, if not then your loss. MirrorMoon is an artistic experiment in explorative, co-operative and freeform game design and what you take out of it as a player will be roughly the same or more than what you’re willing to put in.
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