Puzzle games remind me a lot of old murder mystery books. If they’re well-written and designed, you’ll be following a gripping plot that you gradually figure out with the solution of each puzzle. If they’re not, the product ends up being this mysterious, confusing thing that nobody really finds any purpose in. In books, you keep reading without really following what’s actually going on. In games, you wander aimlessly until a mysterious sound plays or a panel is revealed. MirrorMoon EP feels more like the latter.
MirrorMoon EP is a game by Santa Ragione, a studio with a nice handful of games in their back pocket. This game is a puzzle game. It gives off a pretty large Antichamber vibe; the mystery of not really knowing what the hell is going on. While solving puzzles is the focus of MirrorMoon EP, I still really didn’t know what the hell was going on most of the time.
You start off in the cockpit of a ship, surrounded by cool-looking switches and buttons. This is pretty much the overworld of the game. You choose different levels by navigating the starmap in front of you. The first level, played by inserting the NES-looking cartridge, serves as a tutorial for the rest of the game. I use the word tutorial loosely, since the game doesn’t really teach you anything during that level. It’s more of a simple puzzle that you have to try and figure out.
Every puzzle starts the same: You land on a planet and must find the technology left there, using it to figure out the unique puzzle on each planet. There’s a moon on every level that is a mirror image of the planet you’re navigating. You can rotate it and even move it around in the sky. A lot of puzzles require you to cover up the sun, changing the atmosphere from night to day to find buildings you couldn’t otherwise.
I can understand when games have minimal instruction. It’s almost always a good thing; games with super-long tutorials lose my interest right away. But MirrorMoon EP has virtually no instruction. It begins with a few lines of text hinting at a story (which, by the way, is always very puzzling and cryptic) and the control panel. You’re thrown into the game with no clue what to expect, where to go, or what to do. This doesn’t really do anything but confuse the player.
Don’t count it out just yet, though. The simplistic UI and basic colors it uses are really attractive, and the droning soundtrack makes space feel eerie without making the player feel scared. It doesn’t walk the delicate line between horror and exploration, it dances along that line. The puzzles themselves are honestly a lot of fun, and it’s pretty satisfying to finally figure one out. I know I mentioned the complexity of the control panel earlier, but it gets you immersed in the game right away.
You can purchase the game at their website for ten bucks. It’s available on PC, Mac, and Linux platforms with an Ouya port on the way. You can also follow Santa Ragione on Twitter for more updates on the game.
[review pros=”Gorgeous, simplistic, plenty of bang for your buck” cons=”A little too confusing, lack of instruction” score=78]