Version Reviewed: 1.0
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In late 2009, we first reported the surprising announcement that Mirror's Edge would be receiving an imminent release on the iPhone. Although the game did indeed look very far along, it was soon delayed and went underground for the next few months. Mirror's Edge has now resurfaced, and it has surprised us again by actually being an iPad launch title. Luckily, it was worth the wait.
Mirror's Edge first hit the videogame scene in 2008 as a console game that featured revolutionary first-person, free-runnning gameplay. The game featured a HUD-less interface that smartly used color in the generally white-washed environments to help guide you along. While the game garnered much critical success for its fluid, momentum-based gameplay, and for attempting something new, it wasn't necessarily a hit with regards to sales, and the property's future seemed somewhat in doubt.
Since then, a simple flash game was released based off of Mirror's Edge. As a 2D side-scroller, it successfully captured some of the basic thrills of the console original, and hinted that we hadn't seen the last of Mirror's Edge. With the release of the iPad, we now have the latest riff of the game in our hands, and it sits very comfortably between the fully 3D first-person title and the strictly 2D side-scrolling experiment.
Mirror's Edge for the iPad takes place in the same futuristic dystopia where everything is sanitized and all communications are monitored. Our female protagonist, Faith, is a member of a group of underground messengers known as "runners". As such, Faith has to traverse all manners of dangerous rooftops and city locales to evade the authorities and complete her quest.
When you first start Mirror's Edge for the iPad, you are greeted with the same signature look and familiar theme song from the original. The visuals and overall user interface are very slick and extremely polished, and the music is strong throughout. The game itself sports attractive 3D character models and perilous environments on which Faith catapults herself in 2D side-scrolling fashion.
With all of the aesthetic trappings in place, the game needs to control well in order to capture the action of the original. Using a set of very intuitive touch controls, Mirror's Edge for the iPad does just that. A simple swipe to the left or right sets Faith into motion. An up swipe triggers a jump, and a downward swipe causes Faith to slide. As more difficult sections are encountered, you can perform a wall run by using another, well-timed up swipe during a jump, as well as a roll when attempting to land from a long drop by down-swiping appropriately. There are other wall climbs that can be effortless performed, as well as boost jumps, ramp slides, zip-lining, etc., that all help convey the sense of speed and motion that defines the series. When you can string a number of these moves together, building momentum and flying through the environment like a virtuoso bad-ass, the game really comes together and the sense of movement can be exhilarating.
There are times when the general design of a level or the over-abundance of enemies to fight, which was the Achilles heel of the original, brings the fluidity to a halt. Combat in this game is luckily not the main focus, but it has has been improved upon and is fun when not too many enemies are present. The timing required to pull Faith's attacks is very forgiving, especially due to the slow-motion employed when near an enemy, and you can do such things as a flying drop-kick, a slide-takedown, and a gun disarm. Mirror's Edge for the iPad does away with letting you handle a gun, which is definitely an improvement, as you were very much penalized for doing so in the original game. While the combat isn't terribly obtrusive and it never gets old drop-kicking a guy in the face, it still slows you down enough to put a crimp in your free-running fun.
Faith's story, which is unfortunately told through boring scrolls of text reminiscent of Star Wars, takes you through a total of 14 levels, 2 of which are more-or-less tutorials. You'll be traversing a variety of rooftops, buildings, and sewers, and strewn about the levels are a number of hard to find/reach messenger bags. You can replay the levels to collect these bags as well as earn badges, Mirror's Edge's version of achievements, which then unlock wallpapers, etc.
As you complete all the levels of the game, you unlock Speed Run mode for all of them. You can earn 1-3 stars per level depending on your time, and there is a leaderboard where you can post your times, as well as download another player's ghost to race against. As for multi-player, Mirror's Edge for the iPad has two modes called Race and Rivals. Both of these modes use a split-screen, head-to-head setup. Race Mode lets you compete in a sprint to the finish on any of the game's levels, whereas Rivals Mode has you collecting the most number of messenger bags on any of 4 virtual levels. While a diversion at best, these modes can be fun, especially Race Mode with combat enabled.
While Mirror's Edge for the iPad has its faults, primarily a lamely told story, the occasional confusing level, some unnecessary combat, and a short campaign, it definitely succeeds in being a fun and impressive game. As far as launch titles go, it is one of the best of the bunch because of the intuitive control and signature style. The sense of speed and fluidity of motion that are conveyed when the game is hitting on all cylinders makes for some exciting gameplay. I won't go as far to say that the Mirror's Edge series is a better fit in this 2D style, as it can't convey the immersive qualities of the more finicky, first-person experience, but it works incredibly well as a straightforward action game. When boiled down to these basics, Mirror's Edge on the iPad may be a bit on the short side, but it's long on fun.
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