Well, here we are again! Back and ready to re-dive into the wonderfully creative and mind-bending game of Altered Matter’s Etherborn. Previously, I wrote about the preview / demo version of this game, giving you a vast outline of what was currently available for this title, the wonders it holds and just how different this game is from other puzzle-platformers. Without further delay, here’s the full review!
In the full release, the figure pictured below is still your main character: a see-through, human-based organism who is guided on this journey by an unknown voice. Upon learning the basic movements and physically shifting planes, there are cut scenes where this mysterious 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 reflection than Etherborn. I’m not kidding, whoever wrote the dialogue needs to be promoted!
You eventually reach ‘The Endless Tree’, which as you traverse it you discover bright, white orbs. These orbs can be treated as levels, whereby, the orbs suck you in and load a new puzzle map to conquer. Each map presents a diamond button embedded in the floor, with the goal being to obtain the numerically required white orbs. These hide around the level, putting them in the button slots and advancing through the level until the orb appears again, thereby having the level be completed. To discover them requires climbing the curved surfaces and co-coordinating your approach.
Etherborn is an environmental based, puzzle platformer. Numerous puzzle platformer games require the same old ‘jump this, collect that, move to the next zone’ kind of deal right? Well, in this case, Etherborn takes that knowledge and literally flips it upside down! 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 further..
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 attained physically, as since upon climbing the curved surface, you can now mount and climb the SIDE of the previous 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!
In the full release, this mechanic has been tightened up and the camera movements are as quick or jerky as on demo release. Some climbable elements are hidden from the initial camera view, allowing for a greater sense of searching and puzzle accomplishment once discovered.
Upon start up, the main menu music and design hooks you 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 music has been given a quick rinse upon full release, with each song complimenting your character’s approach to a situation. E.g. The sight and sounds of birds flying overhead will flood your speakers as your character runs gracefully through the wind, with a soft piano tone accompanying your movements.
Visually, Etherborn is amazing. The organism you play as is truly a work of art. What’s clever is that 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. The graphics have a polish too, with the full release given them a sharper, clearer feel. A small addition I noticed during the start of the game, was when your character drops into the world, a small sound of exhaling breath was added. Its small little details like this that really add to the complexity and wonder of Etherborn.
Etherborn is an exceptional clever puzzle based platformer. Each level is well thought out leaving you guessing on how to complete it whilst eagerly anticipating the continuing story.
- Fantastic graphic design
- Exceptional level / puzzle development / puzzle development
- Captivating Soundtrack
- Controls can be a bit temperamental.
- Your patience will be tested. A LOT!