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Review: Mirror's Edge

Susan Arendt | 20 Nov 2008 09:00
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Not that getting there is all that easy. When you're on the run, the need to make quick decisions on the fly (pun intended) will, inevitably, lead you to occasionally make the wrong choice. Even if you do go the right way, the demanding jump, roll, and run moves you have to make will sometimes tangle your fingers to the point of breaking, at least the first few times you try them. Mirror's Edge is very much a learn-by-failure kind of game - expect to die a lot. There are plenty of checkpoints peppered throughout each level, so you won't have to retrace your steps that much when you die, but be prepared to try jumps over and over and over again before you get them right.

Compounding the frustration is the fact that using the 360 controller's shoulder buttons to jump is clumsy and awkward. The type of quickshot tapping that running up a wall, turning 180 degrees and leaping to a ledge requires would be easier to do if you could simply map jump to one of the face buttons, but you can't. You can choose from one of a very few preset controller figurations, and in all of them, jumping is controlled with a shoulder button. It would be far more user-friendly for less frequently used actions like disarm or "action" to be assigned to the less-than-responsive shoulder buttons, but you get what you get. You can, at least, tinker with the sensitivity of the buttons, which helps alleviate the problem somewhat.

Not all of Mirror's Edge takes place at such a breathless pace, though. Each level has its fair share of environmental puzzles that are completely free of police interference, so you can take your time solving them. These puzzles are elegantly simple, relying more on precision moves and expert timing than overcomplicated scenarios. You'll have to flip a few switches here and there, but for the most part the challenge comes from finding ways to reach catwalks, rooftops, and ledges that would seem to require a rewriting of the laws of physics, or at the very least a pair of wings. Solving these puzzles is immensely satisfying and a welcome respite after the high-octane pace of the rest of the game.

Let me confess something to you now: I haven't finished Mirror's Edge. And if I'm being completely honest with both you and myself, I probably never will. Not because it's a bad game - it's actually one of my favorites of the year - but because I simply don't have the kind of patience it requires. If you can repeat the same steps and try the same jump ten times in a row without losing your cool or feeling the urge to throw your controller off the balcony, then I urge you to pick up this wonderfully different and superstylish game. If, like me, even the thought of such try-and-fail gameplay makes your eye twitch, hand the controller off to your pal and just watch. Whichever approach you choose, Mirror's Edge is something you absolutely should make an effort to experience. It's very short - even the most clumsy players will complete it in about ten hours or less - but it's so fresh and unusual that you simply must try it. You may never become such a good runner that you can turn off your runner vision and traverse maps from memory (which is the best way to complete the time trials, by the way), but this is a game you'll be glad exists, just the same. Even if you don't come to love Mirror's Edge, you'll almost certainly appreciate it.

This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.

Susan Arendt wants Faith's sweet shoes.

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