This title was reviewed on Nintendo Switch, but is also available on PS4, PC, and Xbox One.
Developed by Moondrop, the game Degrees of Separation is a puzzle platformer that follows two characters, Ember and Rime, as they travel across a fantasy landscape, trying to find out why their respective kingdoms of fire and ice are dying. As they travel they must solve puzzles in order to progress through the different areas and collect magic scarves along the way.
Intended as a two-player game, Degrees of Separation is full of puzzles that can only be solved through Ember and Rime cooperating – the game can be played solo but becomes much more enjoyable when played with a friend. The gameplay is focused on puzzle solving by using the different elements that the character’s worlds are based on: Ember carries her world of fire and light with her, while Rim brings ice and dark. Between the two is a barrier separating them and their respective worlds – the two are, at face value, entirely incompatible and yet somehow they work together perfectly, each affecting the world around them in different ways so that the puzzles they come across can be solved through teamwork.
Each new area that you explore introduces a new mechanic and working together becomes more and more important as the game progresses. As Rime and Ember make their way through the world their story is narrated to you; now, normally I’m not a huge fan of narration (I generally feel that a video game should be able to tell a story without actually having to tell the story) but the narrator in this game – Kira Buckland – does a stellar job and the narration really helps to bring the fairytale vibe to the game.
Visuals and Music:
Visually, this game is a real treat; its artistic style combined with the deep contrasting colours that split the screen are just pure fantasy. The characters and levels are well designed, reacting seamlessly with each other as whichever character’s world is in the nearby space; one moment warm and glowing, and the next chilled and covered in snow, the level changing with the movements of Rime and Ember. The split screen gameplay is managed very well, and this aspect of gameplay not only becomes integral to the story but also the whole aesthetic of the game itself. The background landscapes for the different levels that Rime and Ember explore are also straight up pretty, looking to be right out of a fantasy story-book. The ‘fairy-tale’ style is cultivated very carefully, and the cartoonish character design, bright colours and beautiful landscapes come together to create a really beautiful gaming experience.
The gorgeous visuals are perhaps only outdone by the sweeping instrumental music that features throughout Degrees of Separation. The music is emotive and utterly gorgeous, evoking wonder at the magic seemingly inherent in the elemental worlds featured within this game. Sound effects are clean but minimalistic, with the key sound effects being the footsteps of Rime and Ember (different according to the element of their world), the sounds the characters make as they jump, and the magical chimes that sound familiar to anyone who has ever played a fantasy video game before. You also have the odd sound from the world around the characters, such as the rush of a background waterfall – that sort of thing – but overall sound effects are used sparingly. I think this was a clever approach to sound effects on the devs part, as it allows the player to truly appreciate the beautiful score and excellent narration.
I started playing this game by myself but I was soon joined by a friend of mine, Jes, who is currently staying with me. Now, Jes isn’t much of a gamer but she picked up on the controls for Degrees of Separation very quickly (and has been not so subtly suggesting that we play more when we’re both free). So if you’re looking for a game to use to introduce a friend or partner to gaming then this might be a good option – the mechanics are intuitive and the story interesting and the gameplay fun. All in all – a fun time for seasoned gamers and new players alike.
Degrees of Separation is a really fun, beautifully-designed game. The music and visual style are utterly gorgeous and the world and story really hook you in right from the start. The gameplay is intuitive but the puzzles challenging enough to be rewarding once you’ve figured out what you need to do to progress, and overall it’s just a really fun time, both as a single player game or co-op experience with a friend. If you enjoyed Unravel Two or if you’re looking for an enjoyable co-op with a good story, give this one a go.