From busting your brother out of prison in A Way Out to coordinating companion cubes in Portal 2, two-player cooperative games offer new ways to bond with friends, family, or significant others. Gamers looking for a new co-op game to play with their partner should set their sights on Degrees of Separation, the latest 2D puzzle-adventure game from developer Moondrop and publisher Modus Games.
The title suitably outlines the basic premise of the game. In Degrees of Separation, players take control of two contrasting characters, Ember and Rime. The two suddenly cross paths after strange dreams draw them together. Though a barrier keeps them separated, both characters possess special capabilities that allow them to influence each other’s worlds.
Players are first introduced to Ember, a fiery-haired girl who lives in a lush environment filled with warmth and foliage. Soon after, players meet Rime, a lonely prince who dwells in a frosty castle atop a snow-covered mountain. The game features a charming, storybook-like art style, complete with a narrator who relays the story as it unfolds.
Two Halves of a Whole
Both Ember and Rime can interact with their surroundings in unique ways based on the hot and cold abilities they possess. Rime can immediately freeze water into ice and can roll snowballs to create platforms to stand on. Meanwhile, Ember can ignite lamps to activate pendulums and create new openings. Players must utilize both characters to solve environmental puzzles and discover the source of their uncanny relationship.
Ember and Rime must trek through their respective environments to collect ribbons tucked throughout the world. The more ribbons you collect, the farther you can progress through the castle. New gameplay mechanics are introduced as you discover new areas.
The gameplay involves controlling both characters so that their half of the world interacts with the environment in different ways. There is a linear barrier that separates Ember and Rime that will shift depending on where each character is standing. Some areas require you to freeze water or stop gas vents using Rime’s half of the screen, while other areas will require you to warm a lamp to activate a pulley on Ember’s side. The controls are quite simple, but this clever back and forth between the characters makes for some challenging puzzles.
Gaming For Two
Degrees of Separation supports both single-player and co-op play. While you can control both characters by yourself in single player, the game is designed for two players, particularly a couple (the game released on Valentine’s day for this reason). It’s important to note that the game currently only features local co-op, though the developers have said that they are working on a patch that will add online co-op support in the future. If you were hoping to play the game with a friend online, you’ll have to wait until the patch update.
Although the game is created for two players, Degrees of Separation is totally playable as a single-player experience. Swapping between both characters to move them through the environment can be a bit tedious at times. Moving both characters simultaneously means using one character to push the other along a flat surface, which certainly has its limitations. However, this doesn’t disrupt the flow of gameplay as much as you might think.
The dexterity and timing involved in some of the puzzles adds an extra layer of challenge that may not be there for two people controlling separate characters, but the controls are simple enough that you can make significant headway on your own. However, I did at times find myself wishing I had another brain beside me to help work through some of the more challenging puzzles, and it’s clear that this is the type of experience that Moondrop intended with Degrees of Separation.
Whether you choose to play Degrees of Separation alone or with a companion, you are surely in for several hours of enjoyable puzzle solving. Degrees of Separation is part puzzle-adventure, part love story, with just enough to keep players entertained for the most part. Collecting ribbons in hard-to-reach locations may wear on you after a while if you are playing solo, so consider recruiting a friend or significant other for some couch co-op to enjoy the game as intended.