Degrees of Separation begins with a whole lot of potential. It promises to be another incredible, emotional and revolutionary platformer in the vein of LIMBO, Braid and INSIDE. Unfortunately, Degrees of Separation breaks its promise.
While the narrative, visuals and audio are all top-notch, the gameplay becomes an exercise in repetition. Frustratingly so.
In the beginning, it seems as though you’ll be solving all manner of tricky and clever puzzles, but what it really all boils down to is collecting scarves. Yep, scarves.
Degrees of Separation Review
Degrees of Separation begins by introducing players to Ember and Rime, the game’s two protagonists. Ember hails from a hot, sunny place, while Rime from a cold, wintry one. Separated by an invisible wall of cold/heat, Ember and Rime can never touch but travel together to solve the mystery of their kingdoms.
Initially, you’ll marvel at the simple puzzles you solve using Ember and Rime together. Rime can freeze water and walk across it, while Ember activates spouts if vapour. Much of the puzzle solving involves placing Ember and Rime in the right place at the right time. And for a while, these puzzles do the trick.
I thought that as I played the puzzles would continue to increase in difficulty and gradually keep challenging me. But they really didn’t. After a while, each of the puzzles was basically the same as the one before. There wasn’t a lot of challenge to them and it all felt a bit rote.
Gotta Collect Scarves
I do have to give some props to the devs of Degrees of Separation. The shifting line that separates Ember and Rime and is the source of much of the ingenuity of the puzzles is a stroke of genius and could have sustained the entire game. However, the way it’s utilised that basically kills any fun there is to be had.
Every puzzle you solve is in aid of collecting these bloody scarves and it’s not long before you lose interest altogether. These scarves seem more like a side activity, but for some reason are pushed to the front. I’d rather they be optional and the puzzles focus on moving forward and unlocking new areas. Sadly, that’s not the case.
Making matters worse, when you play alone, you’ll need to control both Rime and Ember. At the press of a button you can make the character you’re not currently in control of follow you. It’s a good idea in theory, but more often than not, the AI wouldn’t quite work and the secondary character would be stuck on the scenery somewhere.
To free them, I’d be forced to switch characters and get them back together, before moving on. It’s a momentum killer.
While the gameplay is disappointing, the visuals are excellent. The contrasts between the two worlds and the different colours used make both look beautiful. The reds and oranges of Ember’s world balance the blues and whites of Rime’s and together they give you a picture of this world across two different seasons.
Degrees of Separation also have a lovely storybook style to its artwork which is complemented by the narrator’s dulcet tones as she explains what’s happening.
The audio is another standout as the minimalist soundtrack quietly drives the action forward. It’s just a shame that everything except playing the game is wonderful.
Degrees of Separation has a great hook that it, unfortunately, squanders through mindless, repetitive puzzle solving. Perhaps a sequel can iron out the kinks.
Degrees of Separation was reviewed on Switch using a digital code provided by the developer.
Game Title: Degrees of Separation