March 30, 2023

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My favourite planet: The lonely wonders of Mirrormoon EP’s opening world

If I’m going into space – if I really have to – I’m going alone, and I want to be fairly knocked about by the wonders up there from start to finish. I’m after a certain kind of wonder – something lonely, sparse, long forgotten. The kind of wonder you turn over in your head again and again when you’re back on Earth. The kind of thing that stays with you because it refuses to fully resolve and tidy itself away.

MirrorMoon EP, by the Italian micro-studio Santa Ragione, captures what I’m after better than anything I’ve ever played before or since. If you ask me, it’s just about the peak of what video games can do. You spawn into an elaborate and distinctly ’70s-tinged cockpit – you basically move around the cosmos my manipulating an eight-track mixed with an old floppy drive – and you then bounce from one planet to another in a roomy but manageable universe, heading down to one surface and then the next and solving a peculiarly wordless kind of puzzle when you get there. I’ve made it sound like No Man’s Sky a bit when I’ve tried to tell other people about it, but actually it’s the complete opposite: everything you find here is hand-made and bespoke. It’s curated, but with plenty of room left for the player to make it their own.

The very first planet you visit is the one I will never get over. Red earth rushing past beneath your feet, and a huge dark moon in the sky above. As you move, cathedrals of plasticky light sometimes rise from the ground and allow you to collect things, which slowly add up to a gadget you hold in your right hand where a lesser game would put a laser gun. One component and then another clips into place. There is an intricacy to this gadget, a sense of it being in the business of magical things, but with all of these things achieved by very practical means. And then eventually you think, why not, and you treat it like it is a gun after all and take aim at the moon above you, the dark move that fills the sky.

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