Developer: Machineboy AS
Size: 604 MB
Platform: iPhone & iPad
Jesper is a lonely Norwegian teen living with his overworked mother. At the outset of Embracelet we find him smarting from a flunked exam, and soon enough reeling from the death of his beloved grandfather.
Honoring his last request, Jesper embarks on a pilgrimage of sorts to his grandfather’s childhood home on a remote island in the north of Norway. His mission: to discover what drove his grandfather away from his home as a teen, and to uncover the origins of a mysterious bracelet that’s been bequeathed to him.
This bracelet forms the basis of Embracelet’s gameplay, such as it is. Essentially giving you the powers of a low–level Jedi, the bracelet lets you move objects with your mind.
It’s a way of enabling you to interact with objects in Jesper’s scenic world, shifting debris, activating switches, and rebuilding damaged monuments with a wave of your hand. Or rather, with a timed tap of your finger.
Each bracelet interaction requires you to hit the screen just as two glowing circles intersect with each other. It’s a very simple mechanic, but it lends a little interactivity to what is otherwise a heavily narrative-driven walking simulator.
Thankfully, Embracelet’s story is nicely told. There’s a wistful warmth to the writing that perfectly evokes those endless late-childhood summer holidays, when the future seemed so thrillingly and dauntingly uncertain.
The game’s characters are likeable too, particularly the two cousins Jesper befriends on his sojourn. While this is a deeply linear game, the developer smartly enables you to forge key emotional and romantic ties according to your preference.
All that really holds Embracelet back from a more glowing recommendation is its technical shortcomings. The polygonal art style can be incredibly effective – breathtaking at times, in fact – but it’s a little inconsistent. While it handles sweeping vistas in style, with an admirable grasp of scale and dramatic framing, it’s less accomplished at interiors and close-ups.
Not only are some of the simplified textures exposed in these more intimate moments, but the game’s dodgy fixed camera and occasional sticky geometry lead to frustration. The virtual joystick controls, too, are vague and unintuitive, while it can be all too easy to miss direct screen interaction prompts with your right thumb.
Technical hitches aside, Embracelet tells a thoroughly heartwarming tale. It’s a homespun adventure that weaves together family drama and social commentary, with a healthy seam of fantasy stitched throughout.
- Well told story
- Refreshingly flexible romantic options
- Lovely art style
- Poor controls
- Jittery, restrictive camera
- Inconsistent graphics