The Mirror's Edge between the right and left brain

by: Randy -
More On: Mirror's Edge
Three full run-throughs of the Mirror’s Edge demo and I’m finally making a positive contribution to Faith’s “flow” across the urban environment.  It will take a seriously dialed-in player to make the most of developer Dice’s action-oriented non-shooter.  Faith’s movements require a mental remapping of what you’ve come to know and expect of your controller/character movements – even more so than the stellar parkour introduced in Assassin’s Creed.  But nobody ever said this would be like anything I’ve ever played before.

As the protagonist’s name implies, I took many, many leaps of faith across a cityscape that looked starved for de Blob to come along and enliven the pallet with his bouncy, paint-filled body.  The city is physically and culturally drained by the closed-circuit television of big government keeping the street level militantly supervised.  But, through the eyes of the “runners” – couriers like Faith – the city is seen differently.  Instead of pollution and traffic and overpopulation, it’s gleaming towers and sterile geometry and lonely jumps.  Though these runners keep a seemingly regrettable but peaceful existence with the rooftops, their feet never touch ground level.

The whitewashed city is a metaphorical portrayal of what “runner vision” is to couriers like Faith.  Runners don’t necessarily focus on non-essential details.  They focus on ramps, pipes, walkways, railing, billboards, doorways, and crates that get them from A to B.  And the world is painted in varying threat levels.  Safe but accurate routes are blue.  Riskier but typically non-fatal undertakings are swathed in yellow.  Evel Knieval antics are a brilliant red, whose risk and reward are equally yoked.

In the brutally-paced tutorial, Faith has to quickly regain her legs after recovering from an unseen fall during an unmentioned prologue.  On the Xbox 360, taking the high road versus taking the low road when it comes to obstacles is mapped to the left shoulder button and left trigger, respectively.  Now, I'm not one to obsess over button mapping; but hear me out.  If the nervous system is to be believed, the left hand’s actions are dictated by the right brain.  And if brain mapping is to be believed, the right brain is able to register random and intuitive movements with relative acuity.  This indelibly taps into the “flow” that the tutorial pings on.  This flow coerces you to not over-think your movements:  To take a holistic approach to the environment, quickly assert fast-moving and otherwise random objects in your path, and intuitively pick a clean racing line up, over, around, and across the rooftops.

The right trigger is an attack.  Based on Faith’s posture it could be a high or low punch, a sliding-into-second-base kick, or a flying kick.  Following brain-mapping logic, the right finger naturally talks to the left brain.  The left brain, giving the instruction to attack, excels at logical, sequential, and analytical thinking.  The left brain is better at looking at parts, as opposed to the whole picture.  So you’ve decided that it‘s a logically stronger move to punch through this law enforcement officer rather than get riddled with bullets.  Your left brain – via your right hand – decides during the approach whether to attack low, high, or from the air, all three options converging onto a singular target.  Or you could hit the X button (with your right thumb), slowing time (giving your left brain the split second it needs to analyze the situation fully), before you hit the Y button (again, with your right thumb) in order to turn the tables on your antagonist with an exactingly-timed disarm maneuver.  He can’t shoot you if he doesn’t have a gun, and he probably – at this early stage anyway – doesn’t have the free-running skills that Faith has.  Threat neutralized.  Good thinking.

Or, perhaps your right brain took over at the last second, scanned the entire rooftop, and synthesized an escape route that would avoid the “blues” (the authorities) altogether.

For a game that requires some strenuous retraining of your hand-eye coordination regarding a videogame controller, it looks – and feels – like Dice has taken the right (and left) approach under full consideration.
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