21st Mar2019

‘Degrees of Separation’ Review (Nintendo Switch)

by Phil Wheat

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Degrees of Separation is an atmospheric 2D puzzle platformer in which dual protagonists Ember and Rime must use their innate powers to individually manipulate heat and cold. Separated, yet drawn to one another by an enigmatic force, Ember and Rime embark on a spectacular journey, relying on their contrasting skills to shift and alter their surroundings. Interacting with their environment, Ember and Rime can make water freeze and melt, cause snowballs to grow and shrink, force vents to expel air, and more. The two will learn to lean on each other, their unique talents carrying them through the many different stages of their adventure and relationship.

Degrees of Separation is a incredibly intriguing premise for a video game. You are essentially playing a platform game but one that, like games such as Flashback, utilises puzzles as much as it does platforming. However where the game really differentiates from others of its ilk is that you play as two characters at once – playing co-operatively together to progress through, and complete, each level. There’s no combat and no real way to die. The only goal is to finish the level. Together.

Yes, Degrees of Separation is a platformer, the platforming aspect of the game isn’t as well thought out as the puzzles. In fact the platforming is the easy part of the game, there’s no need to perfectly make a jump, or to time climbs and/or jumps – the platforming is as basic as it gets, used more to facilitate the puzzles rather than the other way round. Puzzles which combine the elements of fire and ice, light and dark; and even the individual temperature of the characters can affect the environment – water will freeze as Rime touches it and turn back to water when Ember approaches. It’s that combination for fire and ice, and how it interacts with the landscape – making rivers passable, raising platforms, even rolling a giant snowball to reach higher levels – it key to completing the game.

Whilst Degrees of Separation can be played in single player mode, using your own skill to figure out each “puzzle” and how you can manipulate the characters and the level to your advantage; the real fun comes in playing the game as co-operatively as the characters, with a second player – combining your individual skills and knowledge, planning out TOGETHER how to get through each level. And this isn’t about speed-running through levels either, its about patience and thoughtfulness, finding out how to find the right degree of separation (in some cases the literal degree angle between Ember and Rime) to make the level passable and collect all the scalves… Did I mention the scarves?

The scarves in Degrees of Separation allow you to unlock each section of the game, however… you don’t need to collect each and every scalf. Surprisingly you also don’t ned to complete each an every puzzle either – which is great for those that struggle with the odd puzzle, allowing players to, again, experience all of the game. Though completionists, like myself, will undoubtedly not only collect all the scarves but also complete ALL the puzzles to really experience all that Degrees of Separation has to offer.

Whilst I had a LOT of fun playing Degrees of Separation, the game is not without the odd frustration, in particular in single-player mode. The game features a mechanic where you can call Ember or Rime, depending on whom you’re playing as, to follow you to the next part of a level. Only sometimes they don’t. They do the exact opposite. Case in point: very early on in the game you have to manipulate a rope to drop down, climb it and then move on. Simple right? Well it would be if for the fact that unless you physically move the other character up and PAST the rope there no way Ember and/or Rime will climb said rope. In fact on some occassions they’ll climb off the rope instead. Ridiculous, and much more than that, incredibly frustrating!

With a story as beautiful as its visuals, Degrees of Separation is not without its issues but if you can work past the game foibles there’s a lot of fun to be had solving this puzzling love story.

Degrees of Separation is available on the Nintendo eShop now.

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