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‘Mirror’s Edge’ breaks away from convention

In the real world, parkouring is a young man’s street sport where they run across rooftops, jump across dangerous gaps between rooftops and land in a rolling tumble to absorb the fall. If you’re unfamiliar with this way of life, you should type “parkour” into YouTube and be prepared to be amazed.

At times, parkour moves resemble Jackie Chan action flicks. They find two walls close to each other, and they run one foot up one wall, then run the other foot up the other wall, and they keep doing this until they have reached the top of the walls.

These are movements you master in “Mirror’s Edge,” which is not exactly a masterpiece, but it is the game that excites me more than any other this year. It is a fresh action-adventure that offers something new to the gaming world. It is beautifully drawn. And it is very fun.

You portray a beautiful parkour woman named Faith who works in a somewhat nefarious job called being a “runner.” You run and run, like Lola does in “Run, Lola, Run,” in a futuristic, anti-utopian city.

Soon enough, you discover you are being set up for a crime you did not commit. Suddenly, you are not running for your job. You’re running for you life.

You are racing from cops, across rooftops, jumping great distances across vast rooftops. Sometimes, you have to land on a storm drainpipe (bam, ouch!), grab it, and climb up to the roof. You scale up walls and vault off of them. You jump from a roof to a gymnast-esque bar and swing to another roof.

The visual perspective is first person. At times, you run to the edge of a building and look straight down the 20-odd stories below. If you fall, you see yourself plunge to your death. This game would be your worst nightmare if you fear heights or suffer motion sickness.

It’s tempting to say this is an entirely unprecedented subgenre of action games, except we already learned to climb, jump and shimmy similarly in the Lara Croft “Tomb Raider” and “Prince of Persia” titles.

But there is a difference. Lara Croft and “Prince of Persia” are superheroes who pull off inhuman stunts. The Faith of “Mirror’s Edge” has perfected the real parkour moves of real life, and the stunts of Buster Keaton and Jackie Chan (who once produced a Chan-like game).

And unlike most games with cops, you don’t shoot back. Well, if you’d prefer, you can strip a gun from a cop and blast him. But that’s not the intended purpose of “Mirror’s Edge.” The intended purpose is to journey its wondrous landscape of sights and stunts peacefully.

Some critics complain a hard-core gamer could finish “Mirror’s Edge” in less than 10 hours. True. And some think it’s a bit repetitive, but I disagree. To stave off monotony, you also race up and down subway trains, giant city water tunnels, warehouses, and various other locales.

I am a huge fan of “Mirror’s Edge.” It takes us to a place and a feeling we haven’t seen in games before, and the execution of its elements is stellar. At the very least, you should rent it to see what a bold, nonsequel looks like when great game designers break away from convention.

(“Mirror’s Edge” by EA retails for $60 for Xbox 360 and PS 3 — Plays very fun. Looks terrific. Challenging. Rated “T” for blood, language, violence. Four stars out of four.)

Contact Doug Elfman at 702-383-0391 or e-mail him at delfman@reviewjournal.com. He also blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.

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