“ Developer: EA Swiss Sarl „
Have you ever fancied having a go at Parkour - the sport where you cross cities by leaping on walls and roofs - but been worried about the inevitable broken bones and high probability of death? If so, then Mirror's Edge might be just what you are looking for, allowing you to try it out from the safety of your iPhone.
Set in a dystopian future (is there any other kind?) where all communications are monitored, the only way to convey messages in secret is to employ the services of a runner who will cross the city rooftops undetected, overcoming all obstacles in their way, to safely deliver the message.
To be honest, this plot is pretty much unnecessary. Apart from some rather superfluous interlude screens between levels, it doesn't really intrude on the game that much and is really only there to provide a reason for why you are running and jumping across rooftops and dodging the helicopters which shoot at you in an attempt to stop your illegal antics.
The main character graphics for Mirror's Edge are surprisingly blocky and basic and reminded me of the early polygon based days of the first Playstation. Similarly, the backgrounds are a relatively flat 2D and wouldn't be out of place on those older consoles. They are slightly bland - mostly a mixture of greys and browns - with only a few splashed of colour (mainly red and orange to indicate obstacles which you need to overcome). For once, though, this works in the game's favour. Whilst it might have been visually pleasing to have a little more graphical variety and colour, the graphics reinforce the idea that the game is set in a future where conformity is mandatory and individualism and colour frowned upon.
The sound is excellent, arguably one of the game's strongest features. Like the graphics, the in-game sound-effects are relatively basic and would not be out of place on earlier consoles, but they are effective. The ambient noise of your character's footsteps works very well, whilst the background sounds and tunes all add to the atmosphere. The stand-out piece, however, is on the title page, which features a superb piece of music that's almost worth the asking price of the game alone.
The controls do take a little getting used to, not so much because they are difficult, but because there are quite a lot to remember and they are all introduced in the first (quite short) training level. On my first game through, I felt rather swamped by the sheer number of controls introduced in such a short space of time. This has a negative impact on the game. It breaks up the flow of the first level, since every time a new control is introduced, the action pauses to explain what you need to do. This reduces large parts of that first level to run forward a few meters, stop, read some instructions, press the relevant control to carry out that instruction, run forward a few more meters and repeat. Not exactly the most exciting introduction and a mechanism which makes for a very stilted first level. Indeed, the stop-start gameplay initially put me Mirror's Edge and I put it down, thinking I was unlikely ever to return to it. Fortunately, I subsequently gave it a second chance and found that once you get over the daunting amount of controls, it's actually straightforward and rather addictive.
In fairness, providing you can remember them all, the controls do make good use of the iPhone's touchscreen, all employing a variation on swiping a figure in a particular direction to make your character perform an action. Jumping, for example is achieved by swiping a finger up the screen, whilst ducking under an object is performed by swiping a finger down - pretty logical stuff and (crucially) the controls are highly responsive. The only other mild frustration is that sometimes the phone seems to get confused between the instruction to duck and the one to pause (the first is done by swiping down with one finger, the second with two). There were a number of occasions, when I wanted to duck under something only to accidentally pause it, rather breaking up the atmosphere.
The basic gameplay is good fun; charging across rooftops as fast as you can and hurling yourself off the edge of rooftops or leaping over obstacles in your way is surprisingly entertaining. Gameplay is challenging, but not too difficult and it's a good test of both your ability to plan ahead (to spot upcoming hazards) and a strong test of your reactions (in later levels, obstacles to avoid or gaps to jump come thick and fast). It's quite an exciting and entertaining game, perfectly designed for gaming on the go.
Having said that, I did feel Mirror's Edge lacked a certain something. A truly great game makes you care for your on-screen avatar, so that you become anxious when they are in danger or annoyed when you let them get killed. In Mirror's Edge, I never felt that connection. This doesn't cripple the game, but it does stop it from being quite as engaging as perhaps it might have been.
Partially as a result of this, it's not a game you'll want to play in long bursts. Each level essentially boils down to the same thing: run (mostly) from left to right and leap over obstacles until you reach the end point. As such, it can soon become repetitive and I usually find that I'll play a few levels, then get bored and switch if off and do something else. Still, the levels are well-designed and ideally suited to this kind of intermittent game play. Each level is relatively short (typically lasting 2-3 minutes), so you can quite happily while away quarter of an hour or so running and leaping around like an idiot before switching it off. It is a game I find myself returning to now and again (unlike some other titles I have downloaded), so the long-term playability is good.
The game originally cost £1.79 to download, but is now available for 69p, which I think is a fairer price. Mirror's Edge might not be earth-shattering, but it's a good example of the sort of title the iPhone does well. Simple gameplay married to effective (but not revolutionary) sound and graphics; fun to play in short bursts, it's doesn't lend itself to longer gaming sessions, but will keep pulling you back for one more game every so often.
© Copyright SWSt 2012