It really brings me such joy to see, play and review (or in this case preview) indie games that have such heart and soul in their development. You can really feel that each moment and movement has been undertaken with deep creative love and passion, making the experience just that much more enjoyable. Such is that case with Altered Matter’s Etherborn.
Etherborn is an environmental based puzzle platformer. Sounds like the same old ‘jump this, collect that, move to the next zone’ kind of deal right? Well, in this case, you’d be wrong.
See, the thing that sets Etherborn dashing ahead of the pack is the fact that you are bound by the laws of physics, but in a very, VERY creative way. The design on the levels have been meticulously mapped out, for any curved surface or camera movement can shift and change your perception and direction instantaneously!
Let me explain:
There will be times that you encounter curved surfaces, much like a hill, during the in-game levels. Climbing this hill allows the camera to shift and suddenly you are now bound to that plane of physics. The path you previously walked can no longer be attain physically, as since upon climbing the curved surface, you can now mount and climb the SIDE of the curved surface. It literally adds another dimension to the platforming aspect, giving Etherborn an elongated sense of play time and strategy. Many, many times did I carelessly slip off the world and dive into the ether, only to re-evaluate and scope out my next move. The benefit being that, at this stage, Etherborn presents no limitations to attempts, restarts, lives, deaths etc. Basically, keep going until you figure it out!
Upon start up the main menu music and design (pictured above) hooked me right in. If there isn’t one already, then indie games should have their own music award ceremony because the amount of effort that goes in to orchestrating a soundtrack for a futuristic game like Etherborn really has to be commended.
The figure on the right is whom you’ll be playing as: a see-through human-based organism who is guided by an unknown voice. Upon learning the basic movements and physically shifting planes, there are cut-scenes where this unknown voice continues to speak to you, seemingly guiding you on your journey. But man, oh man, is some of the dialogue thought provoking. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced an indie game that provoked so much deep inner thought than Etherborn. I’m not kidding, whoever wrote the dialogue needs to be promoted!
You eventually reach a gigantic tree, a Tree of Life if you will, which as you traverse you discover bright, white orbs. These orbs can be treated as levels, which suck you in and load a new map to conquer. Each map presents a diamond button embed in the floor, with the goal being to obtain the numerically required white orbs which hide around the level. To discover them requires climbing the curved surfaces and co-ordinating your approach.
Visually, Etherborn is amazing. The organism itself is truly a work of art. What’s clever is that the upon reaching certain parts of the map and / or tree, the camera will shift which allows you to better see the upcoming path and showcase the world around you. At one point, I found myself standing on a raised area of the map, which was complimented by the noise of wind blowing. Such little details really make a massive difference to the immersion and life of this game.
I’m so excited for the future of this game! Altered Matter have already been crowned with a bunch of accolades and awards for Etherborn (and as of this writing it’s still only in beta!), but it truly has a great future ahead of it!