Mirror’s Edge Demo: Non-non-stop Action

Thanks for posting the Mirror’s Edge demo at the PlayStation Store, EA. You saved me (or Santa) sixty bucks!

Along with Dead Space, Mirror’s Edge was the game I was most excited to play this fall. I loved the visual design. I’m a sucker for dystopian storylines. And, most of all, I couldn’t wait to experience the non-stop parkour action: running, sliding, and vaulting from rooftop to rooftop.

As the release date approached, I heard rumblings that the story was minimal — and not very good. No big deal. The gameplay was more important. Remember, non-stop parkour action!

Mirror’s Edge was still at the top of my wishlist. And then I played the demo.

The parkour action is there. But it stops. A lot.

Mirror’s Edge plays like a horribly designed driving game — only on foot, instead of in a vehicle. Imagine a version of Gran Turismo where you speed around for about twenty seconds, come to a complete stop and ask for directions, start moving again, quietly crash and die, and rewind to the last checkpoint. Most driving games are smart enough to make your path intuitive and let you go fast for a while between crashes. Even crash-happy games like Motorstorm at least know how to make your demise entertaining.

I did finish the Mirror’s Edge demo level, but I died several times along the way. The whole thing was a series of trial and error stutter steps. And it seems to be that way by design.

I didn’t find the game very difficult; it’s just that you’re pretty much forced to die (or stop for a good long time and survey the situation) several times each level in order to succeed. That can be okay — even preferable — for some titles. But, in a game that relies almost completely on speed and momentum for its fun, it wrecks the experience.

Instead of having the character die whenever a misstep is made, I would have appreciated if I just wound up on a less desirable (longer) path through the level. That way, I could keep running, jumping and sliding, instead of the constant cycle of running, dying, and rewinding to the last checkpoint.

This pattern made the demo about as much fun as hitting the gas at a green light, only to get caught by a red light at the next intersection. And the next, and the next, etc. I don’t want to play a game that reminds me of my morning commute.

Judging by the demo, the only way to blast through a level of Mirror’s Edge at top speed — and thus the only way to really enjoy it — is to have played and practiced it several times before. But games should be fun even while you’re getting good at them — not just after you’ve mastered them. Unfortunately, learning Mirror’s Edge wasn’t much fun for me at all.

The parkour concept behind Mirror’s Edge is a great idea. And it’s nice to see EA (EA!) taking some risks with new properties these days — something they haven’t done much of since they tried some weird shit early in the millennium. I just hope that, should this series live to see a sequel, the designers give players a better chance to enjoy the game mechanics that made Mirror’s Edge sound so interesting in the first place.

If you’ve played Mirror’s Edge, and you’ve found that the demo isn’t representative of the game as a whole, let me know! Maybe you can persuade me to rent it and give it another chance.

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3 thoughts on “Mirror’s Edge Demo: Non-non-stop Action

  1. Having finished ME, I agree that the dying, stopping and rewinding could ruin the momentum and get tiresome pretty quickly if you were looking for fast parkour action. The combat seems kind of tacked on. And, yes, the story sucked.

    However, I will say that if you just judge the game as a 3D first person platformer with occasional bursts of speed, it’s pretty good.

    I like platforming, so I liked the game. I grew up on NES games where you suffer arbitrary deaths, memorize the levels, and then practice your ass off until you finish, if possible. But if that’s not your kind of thing, then I’d avoid Mirror’s Edge!

  2. Thanks for that excellent comment, Hack. You make a really good point. Mirror’s Edge seems most successful as a platformer. My opinion of the demo might have been way different, if that’s what I’d wanted from the game.

    Platformers can be fun — I’m even playing through LittleBigPlanet now — but sometimes playing the more unforgiving ones seems like a chore. As you say, you have to memorize the levels (usually by dying, first), and then you have to run through them, hoping your timing is perfect. It’s like they’re supposed to be frustrating (as opposed to challenging) by design.

    At one point In the Mirror’s Edge demo, there was some vertical pipe or gutter I needed to grab when jumping from building to building. I kept jumping, hitting the gutter, and pressing the grip button. But I didn’t latch on. I did it a half-dozen times, each time with the same result. Then, one time, it worked, and I still don’t know what I did any different.

    I’m probably just bitter from being so bad at all those old NES games: Battletoads, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, etc. Heck, I even sucked at Super Mario. When the Sega Genesis came out, I wasn’t any better at it — until I started playing some of the sports games (NHL ’94) and RPGs (Phantasy Star II).

    Since then, I’ve preferred games where you can adjust and come back after mistakes. In platformers, you just croak. And yet, as I said, I am playing LittleBigPlanet. So, every now and then, I guess I like to punish myself, just to make sure I still ain’t got it.

    Thanks again for the great mini-review/comment!

  3. The demo was pretty much representative of the game. I played the whole thing because it was short. But it wasn’t so great. And I was excited about it, too.

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