I found myself unexpectedly infatuated with Modus Games’ Degrees of Separation last month when I played a preview build of the game. It’s not what I would normally go for, given the choice, but as the Pure PlayStation bin, I usually end up taking on the games that nobody else wants to. I know, right. Woe be me.
A lot of the time it really does not turn out well for me and I end up wishing sickness on my colleagues. Every now and then, though, a gem will slip by the rest of the team and land straight into my overburdened lap. The latest gem is Degrees of Separation. It’s a rough one, mind you, but a gem is a gem.
Degrees of Separation is a 2D platformer and puzzler. At its heart it’s all about figuring out how to beat certain scenarios by using the talents of the game’s loved up duo, Rime and Ember. They’re not any old couple. The pair live in the same world, yet they cannot touch. Their worlds are separated by warm and cold. Ember’s world is warm and glowing, Rime’s is cold and gloomy. They’re proper Shakespearean sad cases, really.
The game begins with both characters being drawn to one another. It’s a slow start but the opening minutes are necessary to provide a bit of context. As the duo meet on a bridge and discover that they want nothing more than to Netflix and chill, they also discover they cannot touch each other. Despite that, they still set out on an adventure together in the hope of being able to have a cuddle at the end.
The rest of the game plays out with you taking the duo on an adventure through several worlds, solving puzzles along the way. The way the game handles puzzles is what makes it stand out from your average indie platformer. As their worlds are separate and have their own qualities, you need to use the characters accordingly. Ember can be moved into position to activate lights that, in turn, activate lifts. She can also move through bodies of water, while Rime can only walk across their frozen surface. Using the right character at the right time is essential and, in my view, much easier said than done. It’s also easier done with a friend in tow, or as in my case, the Mrs.
The game can be played solo from start to finish but you can also have a buddy hop in for some couch co-op. I found that some puzzles were just far easier to manage by having the Mrs controlling another character. The A.I, as good as it is, can sometimes be a pain in the arse. You can always switch between characters on the fly to sort out a wayward lover’s intentions, but it’s not ideal and it brings things to a crawl. And a crawl it can sometimes be.
The puzzles are, for the most part, very well done. I rarely felt the game was being unfair, though a few dangling ropes are hard to see, but there were a few puzzles that really dragged on well past their welcome, while others could be done and dusted in the space of a few well-timed hops and switching of characters. This is where having a second meat bag to hold a controller comes in handy. You can shout at the TV all day long and it won’t help any, but a few gentle words of encouragement to a co-op player can make collecting the magical scarf pieces all the much easier.
Progression is locked behind collecting a certain amount of scarfs that are scattered within the game’s worlds. For the most part you’ll find and collect them as you naturally make your way through the game. You’ll have to put your thinking cap on and be ready to solve a spatial puzzle, but you’ll have very little trouble finding their location. Some are a little more tricky to collect and I’ll admit that I’ve left more than a few behind as I raced through the game. You’re not required to collect every single one, thankfully, so I don’t feel too bad about leaving a few behind. Besides, going back to collect them is easier once you’ve unlocked late-game abilities.
Visually, I’m a big fan of Degrees of Separation. The visuals play a big part in the game and I genuinely enjoyed watching the world change as I made Ember jump over Rime, and Rime jump over Ember. Yes, that’s a stupid sentence, but it’s what I did. Watching Embers world turn cold and Rime’s turn warm in real-time was mesmerising, and even more so in the later stages of the game. I’m not typically a fan of 2D platformers, but like I say, this one is a gem and it looks – and sounds – great on PS4. The soundtrack is another highlight here and, again, I’m not the kind to really pay much notice to music that isn’t being sung and performed by The Killers. Yet I took notice and appreciated the subtle ways the music played into what was going on in the game. Would I Spotify it? No, but I wouldn’t play my Spotify over it while I played the game, and that’s high enough praise from me.
There’s a lovely little story to be had in Degrees of Separation as well as some engaging gameplay. It’s not going to go down as one of the all-time greats, but it’s one of my favourite indie games of this generation – and I’m a hard man to please.
Degrees of Separation PS4 Review
Degrees of Separation is a very unique take on the 2D platformer genre. It’s a risky game to make but I’m glad it got to see the light of day. The platforming is sound, the puzzles are (mostly) well balanced, and the game looks bloody beautiful.
Strong platforming gameplay
Fair puzzles, mostly
Beautiful 2D graphics (really!)
Some puzzles drag the game to a stop
The A.I can be a ballache at times
Reviewed using PS4 Pro.
Chris has been writing about gaming news for far too long, and now he’s doing it even more. A true PlayStation know-it-all, Chris has owned just about every Sony console that ever existed. Trophies are like crack to this fella. (Bronze trophies, that is – he only has one Platinum.)