Degrees of Separation is a co-op puzzle and platforming game developed by MoonDrop. It is available on Steam, Humble Bundle, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch for $19.99. The humble bundle link is a referral, I get a small commission if you purchase the game through it. This review was conducted on a base Xbox One console by Joseph Pugh.
Degrees Of Separation is a puzzle game about two characters, Ember and Rime. Each one carries the power of their world with them. Ember with the power of summer and Rime with the power of winter. The two characters have a barrier between them and must work together to use their powers to solve various puzzles. The game can be played single player, but at its heart Degrees of Separation is a co-op game.
Be warned, however, the game did not ship with online play. It is coming in a later patch. You can still play the game in local co-op and in single player, you control both Ember and Rime. You can switch between the two characters with a button press. And you can call to your companion to have him or her follow you. The games clear focus, however, is on playing with a friend or significant other. Much of the story is about Rime and Ember trying to find a way to be together, heck the game even released on Valentine’s day.
The visual style is beautiful to look out, and each area seamlessly swaps between winter and summer depending whose side of the screen it’s on. It’s a really nifty graphical effect. The game controls are pretty simple, you mostly just move around and jump. Certain stages give you an additional mechanic that you can activate with a button. But the game is likely a good starting point for gamers just entering the hobby. That is if they are patient and have a keen eye.
The puzzles are difficult and require precise teamwork. Ember and Rimes power interacts with the world in different ways. Ember’s summer world lights lanterns and causes them to ascend. Rime’s winter cold deflates them and causes them to descend. Ember can move under water. But Rime freezes lakes and ponds forcing him to travel atop it. Most importantly the two cannot touch. They must figure out when and where to swap sides so that the power they carry switches with them.
The duality of the protagonist’s powers is implemented cleverly and is fun to try and figure out. It can be a serious brain scratcher to deduce how to maneuver the two protagonists in the right places at the right times. You often have to think a little outside the box to find the solution to each puzzle.
In addition to harnessing the power of summer and winter. The duo must also figure out how to use ropes, air vents, snowballs and more to solve each task. Each puzzle blocks access to scarves, and the duo needs a certain amount of them to open the various doors scattered around the castle. Each door leads to its own themed area and puzzles.
Every area has a mechanic unique to it that Ember and Rime must use to solve the puzzles in that within. One power allows the two to solidify a bridge in the gap between their screens. Another causes an explosion when they get to close to each other. Sending them flying. They can use this power to jump and launch each other farther.
The puzzles are clever and it’s satisfying to solve them. But they offer little in the way of clues. You and your partner are pretty much on your own to figure them out them. This isn’t at all a bad thing. Puzzles are meant to be solved after all. However, if you are easily frustrated, the game may not be for you.
There is no dialogue, but the game features a talented narrator that explains the thoughts of Rime and Ember as you traverse the levels. It’s all pretty sweet in nature, two characters who want to be together but are blocked by some unknown force. The narrator often describes how the two enjoy each other’s presence, and love working together.
I played the game with my significant other, and there are some pretty profound differences between what the game expects of you and what actually happens. The game assumes that a couple playing the game would mirror Rime and Ember, the sweetness and who work together in romantic tandem….you see. My partner and I have been together for fifteen years. Our relationship is a little bit beyond the puppy-eyed phase of Ember and Rime.
Instead of sweetness, our playthrough was filled with name calling, numerous obscenities, and many moments such as, “Why are you so stupid? Just move the damn thing! No, not that way, shut the hell up. I know what I am doing.” A stark, but hilarious contrast to the narrators sweetly described gooeyness. In a way, it brought us closer, as we both would end a heated argument staring at the bodiless voice coming from the screen with hatred. (Please don’t send me any messages about my relationship, jokes aside, it’s healthy I swear.)
The game is pretty lengthy, but your mileage is going to depend on how quickly you can solve the puzzles. The puzzles themselves are well designed, thought provoking and require teamwork, and the various mechanics are cleverly implemented. It’s beautiful to look at and the narrator Kira Buckland does a stellar job. But it is a game of patience and easy-going temperament, however (Aka, not my significant other).
If you are looking for a local co-op game to play and like a puzzles. You can’t go wrong with Degrees of Separation. Or if you just really like a good puzzle, the game is perfectly playable in singleplayer. The controls for switching between the two protagonists are smooth and done seamlessly and the art style is easy on the eyes. If the idea of it piques your interest, it’s well worth the price.
- Beautiful art style.
- Clever puzzle design.
- Unique gameplay mechanics between the dual nature of winter and summer and teamwork based abilities.
- A talented narrator and sweet story.
- Playable in single player and co-op.
- No online play (coming later).