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Degrees Of Separation Review - A Quality Co-op Experience

VO: Riccardo Tucci WRITTEN BY: Nick Roffey
Great couch co-op games are few and far between. The indie puzzle platformer “Degrees of Separation” is the latest game in this trend, offering gorgeous, picture-book graphics, two-player co-op, and a story written by Icewind Dale veteran Chris Avellone.
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Review: “Degrees of Separation”

Great couch co-op games are few and far between. But 2018 brought us several titles tailor-made for local cooperative play, including the undersung “Unravel 2” and prison break adventure “A Way Out”. The indie puzzle platformer “Degrees of Separation” is the latest game in this trend, offering gorgeous, picture-book graphics, two-player co-op, and a story written by Icewind Dale veteran Chris Avellone. But how well does it actually play? And is it enough to get you up off the couch and . . well, onto your friend’s couch . . . or vice versa.

Welcome to MojoPlays, and this is our review of “Degrees of Separation”.

“Degrees of Separation” is Norwegian developer Moondrop’s third foray into the world of 2D puzzlers, following up on colorful side-scrollers Kesper’s Keep and Amphora. Their experience is evident in their newest title’s polished visuals and thoughtful puzzles. The star of the show though is the innovative mechanic at the heart of gameplay. Players take control of Rime and Ember, using their respective abilities to freeze and heat the environment in order to collect scarves that open up new areas.

The story is pretty standard fairytale fare. There’s some stuff about a king, a dragon, and the aforementioned knitted neckwear. A narrator, voiced by Kira Buckland of Nier: Automata, carries the story forward, but can sometimes be a little persistent. [broll of narrator pointing out the obvious] We know! We just did that!

But the focus is really on protagonists Rime and Ember. It’s a classic tale of two lovers separated by a magical barrier that sometimes explodes. Their evolving relationship is expressed through changes in the primary gameplay mechanic, which becomes an extended metaphor for their romantic back-and-forth.

And this is where the game really shines: in its creative game mechanic and approach to puzzles. Rime and Ember’s effect on the environment allows them to freeze water, light lanterns, make snowballs, and extinguish fires - making for some unique and inventive challenges. To mix things up, players are granted one new ability while in different areas - with a personal favourite being a coat that suppresses environmental effects, adding a whole new dynamic. The exploding magical barrier, on the other hand, can be a little frustrating . . . especially when your teammate just wants to mess with you.

It’s kind of a shame that these abilities weren’t cumulative - allowing for more complicated puzzles and maybe even multiple solutions. Even so, the challenge level is ideal, providing a mix of easy and difficult puzzles, and making you scratch your head without the risk of sudden ragequit. You also don’t have to collect EVERY scarf to progress . . . although what are you doing being so lazy?! A fast-travel option allows players to conveniently backtrack.

The weakest point in the game might be Rime and Ember themselves. Even as their relationship grows, they remain pretty generic - Frost Guy and Warm Girl, on a desperate mission to collect scarves in a castle with no stairs. It’s difficult to avoid comparisons here with the fantastic “Unravel 2”. Oddly, I felt more for that game’s balls of yarn than I did for Team Rember. The detail and visual storytelling in “Unravel 2” also arguably have one up on “Degrees of Separation”.

Having said that, “Degrees of Separation” is a welcome addition to the co-op puzzle scene. Released on Valentine’s Day, it’s perfect for couples who want to game and CHILLL - with puzzles that are best talked out aloud, and room for mistakes that nonetheless bring a lot of laughs. Moondrop has promised online co-op in the near future, and the game also offers a single-player mode, which allows players to switch between characters, and ask them to follow behind. But with a game this much fun to play together, the couch is really the way to go.
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