Developer: Mooneye Studios
Publisher: Mooneye Studios
Genre: Adventure, Other
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: PEGI 7
Release Date: 24/09/20
A code was provided for review purposes.
The story in Lost Ember is one about a lone wolf and a curious spirit trying to remember what they have forgotten about their past lives in a journey across a beautiful world where past stories are re-told and truths are revealed.
In the beginning, you’re approached by a strange ball of light that’s seeking help. This spirit is looking for answers on how to get back into the city of light as he’s been trapped behind a barrier for some time. After a short journey and a brief tutorial teaching you the basics, you will arrive at a cave. In this cave, you will come across a medallion attached to a very old skeleton. The spirit believes you are the Lost Ember – a spirit who been banned from the City of Light and turned into a wild beast. However, he wants to assist you to discover the reason behind this as long as you promise to help him get back to the City of Light. You make an unusual pair as you venture forward into the great unknown.
Journey of Many
One of the most unique aspects of Lost Ember is the ability to shift into many different animal forms on the fly whilst exploring. The first time I got to shift into the bird was pretty amazing, having the freedom to take flight and fly around the environment, exploring as you go. It was really cool to see. But you won’t be confined to a single animal in Lost Ember. There 10+ animals to control, some allowing you to progress through chapters while others are just there because they’re there. The experience of flying through a valley as a hummingbird before shifting into a small fish so I could swim down a rapid river was thrilling. Before splashing out on to dry land and transforming back into my wolf form is seamless, a really great mechanic which is the core experience in Lost Ember.
Some forms are used to get through certain obstacles while others are just in the world as extra creatures to experience and discover. There are also legendary animals that are hidden throughout the world to find too. Each animal has its own abilities and some funny random actions like eating food, sleeping or even howling. These don’t affect the core gameplay, they’re just little details in the grand scope of things that make the world feel more believable.
As you journey through each chapter you will come across bonfires which normally mean that a story segment is approaching. These usually reveal a sad tale of events that destroyed a kingdom, tribe and the life of a loved one. Without saying too much it’s the story that holds this experience together and is the sole driving force that kept me pushing forward to see the final conclusion.
Lost Ember’s ending touches upon the emotion and realisation that sometimes the things we do and the actions we take can affect other people deeply. We become blind to what’s important and we can only see the light, things we truly love when they’re gone. It’s a touching moment wherein the blink of an eye I was all teary and emotional. This emotional reaction is the mark of great storytelling.
Thankfully, even though the journey is a short one (clocking in at just under the 4-hour mark) there is replayability. That comes in the form of discoveries. Some of these are collectable mushrooms of which there are 142 that can be located in out of reach places. Different varieties of mushrooms can be discovered in each new area or chapter. You can also find 77 lost items known as relics that the Yanren tribes used. These are hidden in secret places, in plain sight and can be seen as a column of light. You can view information on them in the extras menu if you would like.
There is some exploration in the game in the larger areas, these are normally where you will find the collectable items. The smaller areas are normally more linear, having invisible walls keeping you on the straight and narrow, normally story focused. When you replay levels you’ll be able to see what collectables you’ve missed and still need to collect. Very handy if you’re looking for 100% competition.
As I mentioned earlier, there are 6 legendary animals to find which may take a little while to discover. There are hints for finding them in the extras menu and there’s a little quirky Christmas mode that makes all the animals wear Christmas hats. Additionally, there is a constant showering of snowflakes that can be switched on or off. This will be perfect for the festive season!
I’ve not played the Xbox version of Lost Ember but I’ve seen it on YouTube and it’s pretty stunning visually. The switch version has its moments of beauty and some effects such as lighting details are lovely but it also suffers from bugs, lag and weird visual anomalies too.
I encountered areas that didn’t render correctly which required me to restart from a last saved check-point to fix the issue. Another issue I encountered was that weird light anomalies were appearing in corners of the screen for no reason. There was also an area full of small critters and the game really struggled with its frame-rate which dropped below 30fps for few minutes until it got back on track. I also encountered a scene that didn’t translate to the next scene correctly and this needed a hard-reset to fix it.
There’s sadly a lot of issues, bugs, pop-ups and stuttering that happens throughout which is a shame as when the game is running normally it’s quite beautiful. But sadly the switch version takes some serious hits in performance which can pull you out of the experience somewhat.
Graphics and Sound
The game’s graphics can be a mixed bag. One minute you’re in awe over the far-reaching environments with wildlife flying and walking about which can be rather breathtaking. Then the next minute you’re experiencing a laggy area and graphics that don’t render correctly which can pull you out of the experience. It can look lovely in parts while other times it struggles to keep it together. The sound however comes and goes naturally, normally when you discover a new animal or travelling through an action sequence. The sound design is great and sets the scene. You’ll find a peaceful melody or ambient noises which fits perfectly with the narrative. When both performance and sound work together it can make quite a magical experience. It’s just a shame it can’t keep things steady all the time.
Overall, I really enjoyed Lost Ember. The story talks about the present, past and the connection between son and father amidst a painful accident that leads to a dark place. Unfortunately, there are moments that pull you out of these experiences. Although there are performance issues, the ability shift to different animals is wonderful. And experiencing the story through this unique mechanic is lovely and a great way to tell a tale like this. Even though it has some problems I would still go on this journey regardless and so should you.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can purchase the lost ember for £24.99 on the eShop
All screenshots featured in this review are from Lost Ember’s press kit