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Divergent Shift - DSiWare Review

Game Info
Divergent Shift

DSiWare | Intrinsic Games / Konami | 1 Player | Out Now (North America) | 800 Nintendo Points
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2nd September 2010; By KnucklesSonic8

Although they may wreak havoc with your mental faculties, I really enjoy games like Divergent Shift. They employ a deceptively-challenging principle of having to control two characters at the same. Chronos Twins DX probably comes to mind when discussing this subject since it's the most recent example of this very concept in action. But Divergent Shift wasn't developed for the sake of competing with Enjoy Up's strong offering. Previously known under the name 'Reflection', a small group of aspiring designers teamed up to develop this modest game. I bet they were thrown for a loop when their prototype even grabbed the attention of Konami, an established developer. While the game does share some similarities with what's already out on the market, as a whole, the developers have effectively created a well-rounded experience that even has its share of memorable elements.

    The game starts off by introducing you to Kirra, a motivated female protagonist who has been hired to steal a mysterious mirror. What she doesn't know, however, is that this seemingly-harmless object is about to turn her world upside down - almost literally. Upon locating the object, the mirror shatters into three shards and sends her to a foreign world that plays with the fabric of the time continuum. Now with reality split into two fragments, Kirra has to worry about controlling two bodies at once. The plot is really interesting to say the least, and I was pleasantly surprised by what was presented. It's a story about power and sacrifice surrounding an old Order and strange forces. And being able to witness the climax of the whole game was definitely a big highlight for me. 

    Before I get ahead of myself, let's discuss the controls in the game. 
Moving Kirra around is actually very straight-forward, despite the whole doppelganger situation). Simply use Left and Right on the D-Pad to run, the A Button to Jump, and X or Y to interact with objects such as levers and signs. You can adjust the camera slightly with L or R to see a bit ahead of your current position. Kirra also has a small bag of other tricks up her sleeve. By pressing Down on the D-Pad, you can duck underneath dangerous obstacles, and, if you press the button whilst in motion, you can perform a quick slide that can get beyond small openings. You can also wall jump between two walls using good timing and button presses.

    It's important to remember that when you want to travel in a certain direction, both characters on each screen will move simultaneously. All the puzzles and platforming elements exploit this principle well, as is seen by some of the puzzle solutions. Players will traverse through a forest area full of floating stumps, leaf platforms, and spiky tree branches. From there, you'll also travel to what appears to be ruins from an ancient civilization, in addition to a danger-filled castle. In these two worlds, you'll notice levels become slightly more difficult. And this can be largely attributed to the introduction of the 'Shadow Mechanic'. 

    While normally players have to maneuver characters in sync, this difference in gameplay allows the two to become de-synced, resulting in some near-confusing situations. If you manage to pass over purple vortexes, you can lock the two characters back together so that they move in unison. The tricky part comes when you don't have this help, and you need to figure out how to advance without killing either one of them, either by running into spikes or falling to their death. As challenging as it was to have to cope with this restriction (with plenty close calls), I really enjoyed this feature.

    As Kirra gets closer and closer to putting the mirror back together, she also gradually pieces together the story behind this magical item. In addition to the dialog that sometimes appears on the top screen, some stages have books that contain journal entries which provide back story on the mirror's origins. Some are pretty easy to get, but a good chunk of these are hard to reach, forcing you to explore each level even on later attempts.

    One of the best parts of the game is the fact that there's a very minimal amount of frustration to be had. Sure, the puzzle solutions can be almost devious in nature, and yes, much of this game plays upon the idea of trial and error. Still, at least with all those failed attempts, you won't also have to stress over a confining limit of lives. In addition, the game implements an automatic checkpoint system, so if you're the type of person that hates getting punished for making a deadly mistake, you won't have to worry about that sort of thing happening here.

When I found out that Divergent Shift started out as a classroom project amongst aspiring students, I wasn't surprised. Playing the game, its very humble beginnings emanate through with the moderate amount of visual detail, rough textures and a lack of wow factor. Seeing Kirra run at first seemed a little weird, but I paid little attention to it as time went on. I really appreciated the background visuals that were shown during the final level. Those were very cool. And I thought the music tracks were also pretty nice, and suitable for what was taking place in the game. Although some of these aspects may bring things down a notch, they shouldn't be considered to be a lasting bother, especially for those who care little for visual flair.

    Upon completion of the main story (which shouldn't take more than a portion of your afternoon), you'll get to see the credit roll. Here, you can briefly jump across platforms on both screens that are comprised of the names of those who worked on the game. I thought that was a nice touch. After witnessing a short Epilogue, you'll unlock bonus levels that will test your brain power even more. In addition, you can participate in Time Trial mode on any of the levels you encountered in the game. Almost like a tribute to Crash Bandicoot, you must pass through a yellow clock before the timer begins. If your time is good enough, you can earn a Bronze, Silver or Gold Medal. I personally would've liked if the game also displayed the time you were trying to beat as you played, but that's only a minor complaint.

    Getting Gold Medals on all stages won't be easy to come by, extending the experience. As if that wasn't enough, you'll also need to collect all the journey entries, and complete the bonus levels. Completing Divergent Shift in its entirety could very well take longer than the time you spent just to clear each level, which is encouraging to see. However, I did have one major issue when it comes to replay value, and that's with the lack of save files. It's a real shame because if you happen to share Divergent Shift with people in your life, they won't be able to play through the game on their own terms. It may be small in retrospect, but it's still a disappointing oversight.

    Overall, Divergent Shift is a fun game to play, especially for fans of this genre who enjoy the occasional head scratcher now and again. One could argue that the game lacks a strong sense of action, but that's perfectly fine. Rather than over-complicating things by incorporating needless fluff, Divergent Shift stays true to itself by only having puzzle-based platforming. I felt that the shadow stages were the most enjoyable, simply because they got you thinking more than with the normal set of levels. The team behind this little project have put forth a lot of effort into making this work, and all things considered, I think it's a success. As if having Konami back them wasn't enough of an indication, Divergent Shift is an adventure worth spending the money on.

24/30 - Very Good

Gameplay 8/10 - Makes use of a concept that's been explored in the past, the Shadow Mechanic makes the game more unique, great controls
Presentation 7/10 - Visuals aren't all that impressive, final level was easily the most exciting to see, nice music, very interesting plot
Enjoyment 4/5 - Great for puzzle fans to challenge themselves, clever puzzle solutions, definitely fun to play, minimal level of frustration
Extra Content 4/5 - A good number of additions to extend the experience, unlocking everything and obtaining all Gold Medals, lack of save files

Equivalent to a score of 80% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

Review by KnucklesSonic8
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