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MirrorMoon EP (PC) artwork

MirrorMoon EP (PC) review


"Dear Esther in SPAAAAAAAAAAACE!"



MirrorMoon EP is art, they say.

It's visually gorgeous, presented in lively neon with nondescript formations making up its cosmic environments. Peculiar, misshapen monuments stand proud on each terrestrial body you visit, sometimes accompanied by brilliant forests of what appear to be vertical-standing noodles, swarms of floating hyphens, or shimmering shapeless bulges suspended in the air. Surreal imagery is not MirrorMoon's only artsy quality, as can be seen in its resonant premise. It's all about how life is mysterious and that the ultimate goal is to interact with our surroundings and make our own discoveries. It captures the beauty of ignorance, which, given some effort, can give way to knowledge. Basically put, it's a simulator designed to illuminate the light bulb over your head when you've grasped a concept. All of this is not accomplished with time-tested mechanics and gaming skill, but with constant walking and colliding with stimuli.

Do pardon me while I vomit, or have we become so mechanically minimalistic that I can't even accomplish that small task?

MirrorMoon EP is a walking simulator disguised as a space exploration puzzler. You commence your mission in a cockpit, surrounded by unlabeled buttons and switches. Through tinkering, you eventually discover that you can fly your ship to a star, land on it, and begin "puzzling."

MirrorMoon EP (PC) image


Each ball of gas requires you to complete a different set of tasks, none of which are outlined for you. Also, the game doesn't spell out the function of each piece of environment, so uncovering how each structure factors into a puzzle requires independent tinkering. Every star has a moon, too, which acts as a map. How you interact with the map depends your equipment and differs from one stage to the next. Sometimes you begin a level with a device that can rotate the moon, with new features gained each time you nab an attachment hidden on the star. For instance, you can fire lasers at the moon that act as beacons or "drag" the moon around in the sky. In doing this, you can shift between night and day on the star, which opens up new options. For example, certain buildings that contain devices necessary for completing a puzzle might only appear during daylight hours. In some stages, that might mean dragging the moon away from the sun so that its rays can touch the surface of the star.

....Wait a sec, you need a star to illuminate a star? Fine, I'll ignore that bit of nonsense. Besides, the game commits much worse sins...

Solving most "puzzles" doesn't require any actual intellect. For the most part, you wander around on the star until you've collided with particular structures in the correct order. Each star sports a different set and number of of objectives, too. At times wrapping up a puzzle might mean securing a few attachments for your "moon-manipulator," touching a strange object that triggers a signal somewhere on the star, then moving the moon into just the right position above the signal's origin, which leads to the appearance of a new building. Only then does a tiny orb manifest, the acquisition of which boosts your remaining fuel and whisks you off the planet and back into your cockpit.

One neat feature arises at this point that allows you to name a star if it is previously undiscovered. That name will then appear in other players' games, assuming they're playing an online campaign. Yeah, that's it. There's no online co-op or bumping into other astronauts. Instead the game displays the crappy names others have selected for the stars they've discovered.

MirrorMoon EP (PC) image


Warning: soap box moment ahoy.

Last I checked, puzzle games require some intelligence. You don't usually find your way to a solution accidentally or by stumbling around and bumping into things, but typically by surveying the vicinity and understanding how the environment can be manipulated in order to achieve a specific end. Honestly, splicing puzzler elements with those of a walking simulator should be difficult to muck up, but that's precisely what occurred with MirrorMoon. The game's seemingly random puzzles are haphazard at best, and require little more than wandering and walking into things. It's even more tiresome when a star only asks you to complete a couple of very simple actions. I don't know about you, but encountering stages like that feels like a waste of my time.

Imagine doing this for hours, traveling from one star to another, enacting dozens of non-puzzles, collecting scores of fuel orbs, and losing your mind in the process. Worse than any of the lame puzzles is traveling from one star to another. Rather than instantly rocketing to a target location, the game actually takes the time to move your vessel through space. Meanwhile, you sit and gawk at the screen for sometimes seven minutes or more doing nothing.

Now imagine that you've set course for a remote star, one that happens to be unexplored, and it takes you nearly ten minutes to reach it. Once the coma-inducing wait is up, you disembark and BAM! The fuel you need to collect is in front of you. There's no riddle to clean up or exploration to be had. You take two steps forward, pocket the fuel cell, and it's off to the next-

MirrorMoon EP (PC) image


Nope. I was done with the game at that point. I decided that once I had put at least three hours into it that I would move on to bigger and better titles in my Steam library. For all intents and purposes, MirrorMoon EP is Dear Esther set in space without the droning, pretentious drivel constantly bleating from your speakers. I get it. It's supposed to be art and the meaning is supposed to be more important that than having fun and blah blah blah... I've said it once and I'll say it again: I don't see why video games can't be both entertaining and meaningful. Some titles have accomplished this feat, and MirrorMoon EP is not one of them.

"It's such a work of art!"
"It's a damn shame we can't hang it..."

Rating: 3/10

JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (July 18, 2014)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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