The oddest thing about Mirror’s Edge for the iPhone is its release date. It came out in September 2010, a full two years after the console versions were released. Considering the unspectacular reviews of the quickly-forgotten blockbuster, I don’t think many people were dying to play a basic, watered-down version of the frustrating action/platformer.
Those thoughts gave me pause, but I misjudged the app greatly. It’s better than the original game with a perfect blend of simplicity and playability. No matter what version of Mirror’s Edge you play, it’s all about gracefully running across rooftops, leaping from ridiculous heights and performing other parkour-inspired moves. The 2D iPhone version strips away all the unneeded elements that often plague touch-based games and can be played with just one finger, while still requiring skill to succeed.
By swiping the screen left, the gravity-defying heroine runs left. By swiping it right, she moves right. By swiping up, she jumps or, when available, runs on a wall. By swiping down, she slides. The combat, which is limited to sliding through enemies, kicking them through the air or disarming them up close, is similarly simple. That’s about it for the controls. Nothing more is needed. That minimalist approach goes beyond the controls. The sharp graphics present beautiful, sterile cityscapes with pulsing electronica playing in the background.
Unlike the console versions, Mirror’s Edge is not difficult at all. The joy is in moving through the levels efficiently, making those big jumps and landing stylishly without taking damage. It’s all about navigating a torrent of gunfire and taking out the corrupt police officer in one clean move. It’s about running across a wall, jumping at just the right moment and kicking another police officer in slow motion.
While dying is somewhat rare and the game is over quickly, the online leaderboards compliment the almost perfect gameplay. In addition to being an action/platformer with a flimsy plot, Mirror’s Edge is also a racing game. The quickest times for each level is impressive, and you even race against a ghost version of yourself when trying to beat your own times. Top times can be posted to Facebook instantly, although there’s nothing more annoying than game notifications clogging up a news feed.
There’s a quote that sums up the portable version of Mirror’s Edge succinctly. A French writer once said that, “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” Architects have latched onto the quote, but more game developers should. That perfect simplicity is the reason why the game is so good. It’s the reason any good iPhone game succeeds. Pardon the cliché, but less is more in this case. A whole lot more.