Embracelet - Switch Review
Before the death of Jesper’s grandfather, he shares secrets of his past, passes down a mysterious bracelet and reveals that a young 17 year old Jesper will find answers on the northern Norwegian island known as Slepp. Embracelet is a narrative driven adventure game about loss and magic. It adopts many traits of the point and click genre whilst throwing in a twist to be able to shift large objects with the power of the magic bracelet.
Jesper controls like a standard third-person character whilst being able to use the right analogue stick to control the cursor. It’s clever for being able to control the protagonist in a 3D perspective whilst adopting the point and click style gameplay, and yet that control scheme greatly limits the camera control. The cursor can also be awkward and slow (slow by default, can be changed in Options menu). The lack of touchscreen also depreciates accuracy when interacting with objects, especially when the camera shifts independently.
Embracelet‘s hook is the magic bracelet itself. It’s clever as it allows you to solve puzzles by interacting with objects Jesper wouldn’t have generally been able to otherwise. Despite its basic gameplay addition where you simply have to press the B button when the two circles overlap, it provides a familiar point and click style puzzle mechanic whilst removing the sometimes tedious trial and error item collecting that the point and click genre is known for.
Speaking of typical point and click games, it is very common to be at an absolute loss of what to do. Embracelet looks to alleviate this issue with the Objectives list within the pause menu, however that did feel cumbersome; a separate button to dive straight into this menu would’ve been more intuitive.
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To speak negatively on Embracelet‘s gameplay, it’s a clear example of how challenging developing in 3D can be. I frequently ran into glitches that had me running around on mountains when I clearly wasn’t supposed to be and the frame rate dips weren’t too drastic, especially considering the slow and methodical gameplay, but they’re certainly prevalent.
World / Level Design
The world layout, especially when you get to the island Slepp, is where Embracelet struggles the most. Controlling Jesper felt disconnected and awkward with the flat polygonal aesthetic making it difficult to be a good judge of depth perception. In addition and as previously mentioned, the camera can also be unpredictable and clunky as the right analogue stick is reserved for the cursor, therefore it has fixed perspectives which don’t always react well with your positioning.
Story / Personality
Unlike the world design, Embracelet‘s plot and setting is, without a doubt, where this game shines brightest. Its coming of age theme splendidly correlates alongside its other theme of death and letting go. Not only does Embracelet touch upon life, it delves into how capitalist greed can have a negative effect on the serene nature of northern Norway. After reviewing Machine Boy’s Milkmaid of the Milky Way last month, their games appear to have consistent common themes of picturesque hillsides, loss of loved ones and otherworldly phenomenons, which is lovely to dedicate an evening to.
Graphics / Art Direction
Embracelet has a minimalist graphical design with a bold 3D polygonal approach; quite a sudden departure from Machine Boy’s previous title. While it lacks some of the polish one would want from the jump to 3D, especially when it comes to depth perception and invisible walls, it certainly captures the pristine lifestyle of a remote island in northern Norway.
Music / Sound Design
Embracelet is clever about its use of music or rather, its use of when to not use music. There are plenty of moments, especially in the game’s few opening scenes, that force the player to sit in them and their emotions that arise from them.
When you reach Slepp, you may quickly notice the sounds of nature. The seagulls squawking on the pier or simply the crunches of dirt and gravel underneath Jesper’s feet helps to paint a serene picture that the art direction lays the groundwork for. That’s not to say that the music can’t be dramatic when it needs to be, specifically in tense moments that aggressively propels the narrative forward, just that it is very conscious when to use music and when to not.
Final Score: 72%
Embracelet is a beautiful coming of age story about the importance of learning from the past. The jump to a 3D polygonal art style certainly came with its drawbacks but its story beats and heart-wrenchingly touching moments redeem many of its shortcomings. Machine Boy knows how to mix magic with the gorgeous scenery that Norway can influence and I’m excited about what is to come next.
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