A game that lets you switch instantly from the body of a wolf, to a hummingbird and to a fish? Sign me up.
Lost Ember, from Mooneye Studios, is a beautiful journey through nature. It puts you in control of a wolf who has the curious ability to soul-swap from one animal to the next. There’s a dozen species of animal to take control of: one minute you’re shuffling through the grass as a cute, stout wombat; the next you’re soaring through the air as a majestic parrot.
Accompanying you on your journey is a spirit guide, a glowing orb who directs you where to go and narrates your journey. The tale speaks of an ancient human civilisation that both you, now a wolf, and your spirit guide were part of. By exploring the world around you, uncovering hidden artefacts and watching lost memories you’ll piece together a story that speaks of the fall of your people.
There’s no challenge to Lost Ember; you’re simply moving through areas, witnessing the narrative unfold as you do. The narrative feels like it should be at the heart of the game, but for me it’s the joy of exploring and taking control of the creatures that you encounter. Playing on Xbox One X, Lost Ember looks simply divine. Its world is vibrant, colourful and inviting: strands of grass sway in the breeze; huge lakes beg you to dive in and explore the life brimming under the surface. It’s a truly gorgeous-looking game, one that implores you to explore everything it has to offer.
And you can, too. While running through the game will take you around four hours, it’s worth taking your time and trekking off the beaten path from time to time. There are over 70 artefacts to find, each of which giving you a little more information about Lost Ember‘s narrative. There are also dozens of mushrooms to find; there’s no real benefit of doing so, but if you’re a completionist it’s a welcome excuse to explore everything that Lost Ember has to offer.
It has to be said just how exhilarating it is to switch from one life form to another. Your wolf, black and slender, elegantly gallops across the land; picking up pace if you hold down the right trigger button. But the touch of a button sends his soul instantly into another creature, giving you direct control. There’s a mole, who scuttles slowly across ground, but has the ability to burrow underground, digging pathways to get past barriers that otherwise lay in your way. Likewise, becoming a bird allows you to soar across huge caverns that your wolf wouldn’t be able to jump across. There’s nothing quite like gliding through the sky as a duck, or relentlessly flapping your wings as a hummingbird. No matter which animal you’re in control of, inputs are fluid and responsive.
Lost Ember isn’t the longest, most in-depth game in the world. It’s neither complex or challenging – but it is beautiful, thought-provoking and rousing. Its wonderfully-designed world is one that begs to be explored, and its cast of creatures great and small truly bring it to life. Not to mention just how damn adorable those wombats are.