Degrees of Separation Review: The Space Between
Kalvin Martinez / Apr 9th, 2019 No Comments
How can you work together when you can’t get near the other person? More often than not co-op games require players to work closely together. Whether that is pulling levers, pushing blocks, or any other activity that requires two people to overcome them. What happens to that dynamic when a barrier prevents them from ever get close to one another?
Degrees of Separation adds a fun spin to co-op gameplay by creating a constant divide between players. The puzzles it presents are clever and necessitate good communication to find the solutions. Figuring out how to navigate the barrier between characters is key.
Degrees of Separation is a tale of two kingdoms: one of eternal summer and one of permanent winter. Ember holds dominion over the kingdom of summer and Rime is in charge of the winter kingdom. The kingdoms have long been separate until one day the two have strange dreams involving elements foreign to them and a great wind.
When they venture forth from their kingdoms they discover destruction that have been caused by a storm. As a result of their dreams and the storm, both Rime and Ember ventured forth to find out what is causing these bizarre occurrences.
As chance would have it, Ember and Rime met for the first time. Yet as they’re from different kingdoms, they are fated to never get near one another as a barrier separates them. Before they can dwell on this fact too long, their adventure begins and they come across a mysterious castle. Once they enter the castle and begin to explore it, they realize that the truth behind what happened to their kingdoms lies here.
The way the game’s story is present makes it feel like a classic fairytale. Its charming artstyle, illustrative graphics, and kind narration only help to drive that feel home. A major part of the story is the relationship that develops between Rime and Ember. Since the two never speak to each other, the narrator carries a heavy burden to highlight the relationship.
That alone would make for a weak and flimsy relationship, but the gameplay helps add depth to it. As Rime and Ember solve puzzles, collect scarves, and explore the castle, you understand why the relationship blooms. It is a great dynamic between story and gameplay with gameplay helping aid the story and vice versa.
Eternal Winter and Summer
Ember and Rime are caught up in a long game of hot and cold. The two are separated by a thin barrier. On either side of this barrier is each character’s respective season. For Ember, her side is bathed in bright, warm sunlight, while on Rime’s side, it is a cold, frozen landscape. This barrier prevents the two from touching, but it allows them to switch places to affect different sides of environment.
Solving puzzles in Degrees of Separation comes down to how different aspects of the world are affected by Ember and Rime’s respective seasons. For example, certain platforms can only be triggered to go up and down when affected by the proper season. The triggers for these platforms changes from puzzle to puzzle, but more often than not there are multiple triggers that require you to maneuver Rime or Ember accordingly to reach an exit or grab a scarf.
Scarf?! When Rime and Ember happen upon a mysterious castle, they find beautiful and alluring scarves hidden across an idyllic field of the castle behind a giant door. At first, it is unclear what purpose the scarves serve, but nabbing them is probably a good idea. Unfortunately, obtaining the scarves is not as easy as it may seem. Many of the game’s puzzles involve finding ways to claim them.
While it may seem at first that these scarves serve no purpose, as you continue to explore the castle, you’ll other doors to go through. However, many of them are locked. On the doors are a number of symbols. When Ember and Rime stand in front of the doors they light up. Depending on how many scarves either all of the symbols will light up or not. The scarves are your currency for exploring more of the castle and finding out answers as to what the castle is.
While the first area you explore in Degrees of Separation is about acclimating you to the basic gameplay mechanics, when you get into other areas of the castle the way you solve puzzles expands. The core dichotomy between summer and winter is still key, but you gain additional tools that add additional difficulty and dimension to the hot and cold interplay.
For example, one area sees you gaining staves that allow you to build bridges of light. These bridges appear in line of separation between Ember and Rime. When you create a bridge it also locks that particular season into place on either side of the bridge. Figuring out how to take advantage of how that line changes based on how far or high each character is from one another character is important to gathering the scarves in this area.
Central to the game is the fact that the characters are separated by a barrier. It makes up the core of the puzzle solving, but that changes when you get to a specific area of the castle. In this area, Rime and Ember find a cloak. The cloak allows them to switch seasons allowing Ember to control winter or Rime to control summer. It also gives them the power to make the environment into a singular season. While it turns the gameplay on its head, finding solutions to puzzles becomes no less challenging.
Degrees of Separation can be played single-player with a single person switching between characters or co-op with a friend or stranger online. While the game plays perfectly fine alone, you don’t get the same thrill of discovering a solution to a puzzle as you do with another person. Since moving each character and their respective season is tantamount to solving puzzles, this is usually more nimbly done in co-op. It also has the benefit of allowing you to communicate possible solutions and the fun that results from that.
Degrees if Separation is a charming game with very clever puzzles. It has a fun storybook vibe with lovely visuals and an eye catching art style.
Whether playing alone or with someone else you’ll find yourself constantly scratching your head to come up with a solution.
Degrees of Separation was reviewed on Nintendo Switch with a code provided by the publisher.
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