If the future depicted in Mirror’s Edge is to be believed, it is also a world of bold but limited colour. Tall buildings gleam white in the sun, interrupted only by flashes of red, green and blue. It’s as if a the mayor of the city, despairing at his wife’s inability to choose between apple white and snow white for their new kitchen, took some very drastic action to simplify matters.
If the future depicted in Mirror’s Edge is to be believed yet further, it is also a world of high security, where information is everything and highly sought after. Throughout, you guide Faith, a “runner” and purveyor of such information, across the rooftops in a bid to stay one step ahead of the authorities as she clears her sister’s name. Scaling scaffolding, jumping fences or sliding under pipes, she’s an agile lady who also isn’t afraid to get into a scrap if cornered.
Whether the contrasting visuals appeal to you or not is all down to personal taste, but their importance in the world cannot be downplayed. Running across the rooftops, the only signposts you’ll ever encounter are these flecks of colour. Not only do they help create a striking environment but an intuitive one, highlighting your next objective and allowing even new levels to be confidently tackled at a satisfying pace. It’s an unobtrusive way to guide the player and fits in well with the rest of the clean aesthetic; there is no HUD, no clutter, no reason to remove you from the experience.
The speed and freedom that can be achieved in Mirror’s Edge prove its greatest strengths, backed up by the first-person perspective and accessible controls. The former gives you a sense of connection with Faith and her movements, never taking you away from what she is going through, whilst the latter gives easy access to all of Faith’s skills. Wallruns, vaults, flips, jumps and slides, that if strung together across the cluttered skyline can provoke an empowering experience.
Most of the more open areas offer more than one way to navigate them, giving the opportunity to express yourself and experiment. Even the linear sections are welcome, acting like a three-dimensional puzzle that you must crack to progress.
Of course, there will be times when things go badly and a mistimed jump can send you hurtling to the pavement below. On these occasions you are set back to a the nearest checkpoint are persuaded to learn from your mistake. The frequency of this varies greatly throughout the game but whilst they can come in bursts the load times are never long enough to become annoying.
Unfortunately the weak point does come when those who wish to stop your free-running ways arrive on the scene. “Blues” armed with guns will burst out of doorways and although many can be avoided some must be knocked out or killed to progress. It can prove horribly scripted and combat on a whole is a painful, tiresome affair that breaks the game’s flow.
A lone enemy may not prove much of an obstacle, with their intelligence such that you can run straight at them and floor them with a flurry of blows, but rounding the corner to find a small squad always made my heart drop. You are advised to isolate each in turn but on certain rooftops that is easier said than done and on more than one occasion a play session ended because of the sheer frustration that it caused.
There is the option to disarm Blues and turn their weapon on their sqaudmates but the timing for this is ridiculous. A man could be doubled over and wheezing from a blow to the crotch but there is no option then. Instead it seems that the optimum time to remove is weapon is when he’s swinging it at your face. Having said that, and getting into character, I never felt as though Faith was the type to use guns and so insisted on battling through solely using unarmed combat.
Time-trials do become available as you progress, presenting areas where it is simply Faith and the environment, but they are balanced out against being forced to play through the main-story to unlock them.
Mirror’s Edge is ultimately a game of highs and lows: the joys of free-running across a gorgeously, stylistic city, and the lows of yet another bullet induced death. In many ways there are parallels with Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, as in both cases you had a very pure and enjoyable platform-adventure and yet it seems that bad guys were added to either pad the game or because the designers just couldn’t imagine a game without them. In both situations, I feel their inclusion was to the detriment of the games themselves.