When I first found the archive of retro gaming fandom that was UK:RESISTANCE, I remember being very taken with their campaign to put the Blue Sky back into video games:
“We want to play in a HAPPY PRETEND LAND, not a shit version of an American slum full of mixed-race gangsters wearing licensed sportswear!”
A pretty strong message, aimed solely at the developers who were trending towards having all their games as dark thematically as they were graphically. Even taken at face value, I found myself wishing for more classic Mario/Sonic, and less Call of Duty.
It’s good to see that at least one game got the message – again, in terms of look if not the feel.
When I first played Mirror’s Edge, the first thing that struck me about the visuals was just how…blue the sky was, and how everything I ran past/jumped over/slid under was so sleek and brightly lit. Simply gorgeous. A game this brightly designed will have stuck out like a sore thumb on the shelf next to Gears of War 2, Fallout 3 and GTA IV, but I’m hoping that those who took a chance on this game (if not because it’s the only one I’ve mentioned so far which wasn’t a sodding sequel) enjoyed it as much as I did.
Set in a nightmarish future whose citizens live in fear of a Big Brother-type surveillance society, you play Faith, one of a handful of skilled couriers known as Runners, who use their parkour skills to evade detection as they carry messages between bands of resistance. As you complete your tutorial mission by delivering a package to a fellow Runner, you head straight into the plot: a murder mystery/conspiracy involving friends, family and your trusted allies, the people who are striving to smash the system.
The story is rather exciting stuff if a little basic, it’s got some great characterisation but the plot development feels a bit underdone. Then there’s the slightly cartoonish cutscenes which are said to have divided opinion, they’re very well made but for me are a bit jarring against the gameplay sections.
But that’s only because the gameplay is so brilliant. I mean, running away from armed guards and everything can be very cool when the suspenseful music starts up (oh, and THAT music), and a lot of the puzzles are fiendishly fun, but that’s all stuff which other games have done, and some of them have done it better I must admit.
No, it’s when you kick open a fire escape and head to the rooftop just to see all this…blue right in front of you. And then ambient music begins to play, and you take a minute to look above and see this beautiful sky and realise that everything is up there and out there and then as you start to run, it’s just you and your wits against gravity, getting from A to B through sheer self-control and trying not to panic when you’re hanging off a ledge or getting the rush of realism when you start to fall in what feels like slow motion, god it’s glorious!
Part of the appeal of the UK:R Blue Sky campaign is making you feel something again when you’re playing a game, whether it’s a nostalgic pang for the games of old or just that sensation of serenity. With Mirror’s Edge I feel like I got both, and it’s a beautiful thing.