Stretching a separate character into the deep reaches of space sounds like an asinine reward, but when you place a distinct challenge in front of a player, they’ll want to accomplish it. Everyone worked together, a collective village stretching a rainbow creature to unfathomable lengths all in the name of discovering a new planet to unlock additional areas. I missed out on Noby Noby Boy.
MirrorMoon EP feels like an extension of this idea. It felt comforting once I settled in.
Every time you open up MirrorMoon, it starts at a minimalist control panel. It feels familiar in its layout, but the multitude of red and aqua buttons contrasting the starkness of barren space beyond you instill an alien feeling within the design. Initially, you’re not sure what each button does, implementing the sense of discovery implicit in MirrorMoon’s design from the very beginning. Starting up the device and clicking on individual panels each time is a stupidly satisfying event. It made the game feel far more like a simulation of extraterrestrial space exploration, an idea that I tried to emulate throughout the entirety of my playtime.
I lingered a moment to see my system, Angst, and whether the man on Goran would ship off to another planet any time soon. Mine became ours. It was one of the most dazzling moments I’ve ever experienced in a game.
You’re taken through a beginning tutorial that introduces the few gameplay pieces making up MirrorMoon’s on-planet experiences. It plays more like an extensive puzzle than any of the later planets, but demonstrates what the various contraptions you might find on planets will do. MirrorMoon gets its name from the idea that the moon circulating your planet is a mirror of your own. You can use it to help navigate, as well as place beacons on its surface to help point you towards important landmarks. Hopping back to control, I now have free reign over the galaxy. Gauges and pistons litter the interface. Oblivious to their actual meaning or impact, I discover the contraption that targets new planets across the map and engage the fuel system.
Each planet is different in the type of puzzles they introduce for you to solve. Some may put the solution directly before you; others require you to use beacons or move the planet in front of the sun since the star’s secret lies shrouded in darkness. I never felt all that challenged on any particular level, and some may find that the planet’s can grow repetitive, but MirrorMoon isn’t about finding some arbitrary white orb left on a planetscape. The exhilaration of discovery is what drives MirrorMoon forward. It’s also what makes it so stunningly gorgeous and brilliant.
After you’ve found the white orb at the end of each planet sequence, you’re then allowed to name that object. The galaxy isn’t solely yours, though. As you trek through space, others are performing the exact same tasks and charting out the deepest reaches of the universe. Suddenly, what was a series of randomly named star systems has become Tissle, Sex69 or Snake while I spent time on the surface below. When I emerged from a planet sporting the most beautiful whirlwind of yellow objects and found out that someone else had already named the few areas next to me, I panicked.
It felt alarmingly real and consequential, a sensation MirrorMoon causes quite often when treated like a space simulation.
It was a veritable space race. I leaped from planet to planet in a hurry to stake as much land as possible before others slapped crude names on them. After one extensive trip, I plotted my next course and prepared for launch. I found myself stuck in a perpetual state of immobility. Looking around the cockpit, I finally understood the gauges that controlled fuel output and the time each trip would take. I could have exited the game to start up with a full tank. That would have defeated the purpose, though; I was reckless with my fuel and now have to suffer through the fifteen-minute wait to reach the next planet. It felt alarmingly real and consequential, a sensation MirrorMoon causes quite often when treated like a space simulation.
One of the MirrorMoon’s greatest strengths is how personal the game feels, despite its emphasis on a collective effort. That’s why I’m generally using anecdotes to illustrate just how moving some of the scenery or sequences can be. One specific instance drastically shifted my intentions from that of a selfish landowner to a person intent on helping my fellow explorers.
After covering the sun, one planet became black as night. Staring into the sky, small illuminated dots began to appear. Clustered in groups, the collections began to garner names. White circles surrounded a few throughout the air. Our charted planets laid before us, my fellow explorers working through the galaxy alongside me. I lingered a moment to see my system, Angst, and whether the man on Goran would ship off to another planet any time soon. Mine became ours. It was one of the most dazzling moments I’ve ever experienced in a game.
Even if every planet doesn’t host a mind-bending puzzle, the aesthetic variety keeps every new discovery fresh. No matter what, I would spend several minutes simply exploring the area, looking for any sense of beauty I may have missed. One area produced a yellow hurricane and stirring storm of shooting stars. It’s hard not to sit in awe, especially when a relaxing ambient track plays in the background.
The galaxy isn’t always a bright and shiny place, though. At one point, I landed on a mud-brown world. It felt as if something had obliterated all life there in an instant. Sun rays flashing brightly and harsh music assaulting my ears, I still stepped away from the immediately revealed solution to explore. I lost myself on that world. I could have exited to the cockpit and easily re-entered to quickly find the white orb, but I would have cheated myself out of the relief that comes with the reprieve from an exhaustive search.
Santa Ragione has prescribed meaning to a series of black dots while making myself and others enraptured with discovering their mysteries. MirrorMoon EP didn’t challenge me intellectually or physically. Instead, it made me experience the pure joy of discovery. Some vistas compelled me to stare in disbelief at the wondrous scene before me. It elicited a contemplative sensation few games ever have. It perfectly captures the abstract beauty everyone pictures when imagining the universe beyond our current perspective. Our galaxy is far from complete. As I type, others are toiling away, clicking on black dots against a rectangular screen. People often say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. MirrorMoon is the exception.