Degrees of Separation (Switch) Review

An Icy-Hot Puzzle Platformer

Degrees of Separation begins as a modest platformer. You first take the role of Ember, a girl living in a world of eternal summer. Before you can get used to her warm presence, the perspective suddenly switches to Rime, a boy who serves as the last defender of a kingdom of ice. Control shifts between Ember and Rime, drawn to each other by a strange force. At last, the two discover one another and reach out their hands. But they cannot touch, for neither can leave their own worlds – one of intense heat, the other of a bitter cold. This scene was the game’s defining magical moment that instantly hooked me in.

Here’s the Video Review for your viewing pleasure!

At all times, both Ember and Rime inhabit the same area. However, the screen is divided by a dynamic line, splitting the two characters and their respective worlds. Ember imbues her half of the field with constant heat, represented by warm orange colors, while Rime’s half exudes icy blue frigidity. As the two of them move, the environment alters with them. When they cross paths, the barrier between them spins, flipping the two climates.

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Balance is a factor in this unorthodox love story.

It’s stunning to see this game in motion. The fluid storybook world seamlessly transforms from one season to another, with an ethereal mosaic line brilliantly outlining the transition. Calm instrumentals set the game’s tranquil tone. A soothing voice narrates the characters’ story, which is essentially a fairy tale version of Romeo and Juliet, featuring two lonely, star-crossed lovers on an emotional journey.

More than a visual spectacle, Degrees of Separation is at heart a puzzle platformer. Ember and Rime harness their authority over fire and ice to solve temperature-based brain teasers. For example, their contrasting skills can freeze or melt water, activate or deactivate heat vents, and light up or put out lanterns. The concepts are simple but cleverly implemented. Solving each riddle requires precise movements and careful manipulation of the elements. Neither character operates in a vacuum and must use their unique powers to assist the other.

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A tale of ice and fire.

Although you can only control one character at a time, it’s not a big hassle to switch between them. More intense coordination may prove unwieldy, though, and the partner call option doesn’t always function correctly. Luckily, the campaign can be played entirely in local two-player co-op, which is the smoothest way to play. There’s a magic to experiencing this together with a friend or loved one. Although two-player is ideal, it isn’t necessary for completion.

The game “1-ups” its own temperature manipulation premise by introducing gimmicks in every world. For instance, in one level, Ember and Rime gain the ability to materialize the split screen line, freezing it and transforming it into a platform. Another area forces an explosion to occur whenever the two characters are nearby, allowing them to blow up obstacles and propel across gaps. The level design ingeniously complements the hot-and-cold dynamic, though there is some reliance on trial-and-error with the undependable in-game physics. Also, the gimmicks are limited to the level they’re introduced in, so it never feels like you’re learning a new ability, but rather temporarily applying one to the current situation. Nevertheless, there’s a comfortable learning curve as the game teaches mechanics efficiently during easier puzzles to prepare players for harder ones. Indeed, the difficulty ramps up to a point where later puzzles would stump me indefinitely.

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You’re hot then you’re cold.

Except for the first and last worlds, the game functions like a collectathon. It takes almost no effort to walk from the beginning to the end of a level. But you can’t proceed to the next one without obtaining a bunch of collectible scarves. Each one serves as the reward for solving an environmental puzzle, but since you’re free to explore the level, you can choose which scarves to pick up. If one puzzle is too hard, you can just skip it and try another one. As long as you have enough scarves, you can reach the ending. This non-linear progression isn’t a turn-off as the puzzles themselves are still worthwhile. That being said, I would have preferred a more standardized experience where each level was a set of trials that included bonus collectibles for completing optional puzzles.

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Journey’s main character would fit in this scarf-obsessed world.

I ended up having to replay several of the game’s handful of levels to reach my scarf quota. You can warp to any part of the level you’ve accessed, but a vague map display makes it hard to pinpoint where the remaining scarves are. As a slow-paced game with no enemies, aside from a harmless end-of-level dragon, this experience is best reserved for patient players not seeking action. The adventure takes about ten hours, give or take depending on puzzle-solving skills. Collecting every scarf takes longer, though it’s not compelling to do so after the credits roll.

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So close yet so far.

Conclusion

Degrees of Separation is a gem that matches its warm narrative and cool graphics with equally impressive duality-focused riddles reminiscent of Zelda. Not every aspect works, but the crucial elements synergize, producing a world-colliding experience for puzzle platformer fans.

Score: 8/10

Note: A review copy was used for this article.

What do you think of Degrees of Separation? What are your favorite co-op puzzlers? How about your favorite puzzle platformers? Please be sure to share your thoughts or questions in the comments section below! Thank you so much for reading and watching!

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6 thoughts on “Degrees of Separation (Switch) Review

  1. Awesome review! It was icy-hot! I love how creative and beautiful Degrees of Separation is. I’ve never seen a puzzle platformer like this before. I like how the narrator tells the story as you’re solving the puzzles. Playing in co-op mode with you was a lot of fun. And some of those puzzles were pretty tricky. This is such a great concept that’s very well executed. I love the fire-ice mechanics and the visual juxtaposition. Plus Todoroki is my favorite My Hero Academia character (yes, that’s relevant). Half-cold, half-hot baby! This seems like one of those games that could be easily overlooked, but I hope a lot of people discover and enjoy this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your wonderful words of support and encouragement! I truly appreciate it! 😀 Degrees of Separation is definitely a unique puzzle platformer, and I appreciate that it’s one that can be played co-op. It reminds me of such awesome experiences as Snipperclips! 😀 The premise of two characters in love on a journey reminds me of The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince too. But in that game’s case, it was too easy until the end of the short game. Degrees of Separation felt more like the kind of adventure I wanted. The puzzles are clever and look really cool in motion. And hot too! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a beautiful and creative game! It’s actually pretty relaxing just to watch it. As you said, this looks like a really nice, low-key platformer to play with another person, particularly in between Call of Duty campaigns.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree! It’s so relaxing just to watch Degrees of Separation. The music is so soothing, and the puzzle gameplay is relaxing, even though i had to wrack my brain on some of the harder ones. There’s such a nostalgic atmosphere with the warm and cool visuals, too. It’s great for co-op too! Hahaha Call of Duty. Boy do I like your humor haha! Thank you so much as always for your awesome support! I truly appreciate it! 😄

      Like

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