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[Review] Etherborn – Nintendo Switch

By Brett Hrin Jul26,2019

Etherborn

Developed By: Altered Matter
Published By: Altered Matter
Category: Artistic Puzzle-Platformer
Release Date: 07.18.2019

Games that come out today that lean into an artistic style and approach to set themselves apart from the pack are becoming more common as the indie community expands and people have a creative vision they want to put on the screen. It’s an amazing time we live in where we can find nouveau and classic takes on artistic design, and we can really see a vast array of titles with completely unique styles. Etherborn joins this genre while jumping into the Puzzle-Platformer scene as well. You have an anatomical main character you will run through this title as and the gameplay hook in this title is its gravity defying stage design. You clip onto the gravitational pull of the current side of the level that you happen to be standing on, and through curved ramps you can change the direction you are standing. With this you have to maneuver through levels from various angles and progress. Get prepared to be enchanted by the charm that oozes from this title, but it’s a bumpy ride.

Your character is somewhat of a newborn, and although it is fully grown into its humanoid form you also have exposed internals. The story of the game is very vague and is definitely not the focus of this title. You are following some disembodied voice that is directing you to chase it through these levels trying to discover what s going on in this world and with yourself. Existential crisis averted? Possibly, but don’t get too involved with what might happen here as the game is really just about what you are seeing and hearing and doing, not what is happening in the background.

Running and jumping is your bread and butter in this game. Besides camera maneuvering and a keen eye for design this is the majority of how your time will be spent in Etherborn. The game isn’t trying to trick you or complicate things with any abilities or deep mechanics, you are just trying to complete the stages and continue forward. If you are looking for something that will challenge your platforming ability than look elsewhere. You will be challenged in a very different way than that.

Game design is where this game is making a name for itself. You have completely three-dimensional levels that you must navigate and visualize from all different gravitational pulls. This makes for an extremely difficult puzzle game, where the puzzle is purely just where you are standing and how to get where you need to go. The game ramps up quickly with how tough of levels it throws you into, and this game definitely isn’t going to hold your hand in any way. Levels are gorgeous; pure nouveau goodness. The things you get to look at in this game allow for a sense of zen, which is immediately destroyed due to design being so frustrating for gameplay that you will not be able to progress multiple times throughout this title. There are very specific ways to traverse each level, and one small mistake can make you start the whole thing over again. I found myself multiple times either missing a jump or going the wrong direction while trying to solve each puzzle and ending up in a place that forces me to just get back to the start. Don’t get me wrong, the design is rewarding, and allow for a ton of deep thinking when trying to beat this game, but I feel like a game that looks this nice could be a little nicer to the player when it comes to how often you get stuck.

The other main portion of the design in this title is finding orbs that you will need in order to unlock moving parts of the stage. These orbs are usually not placed in a way that is as frustrating as the level overall can be, but the moving platforms can take a level you have finally wrapped your head around and throw a total wrench into all of your understanding. This is great puzzle design, as you have to relearn each time, but paired with how frustrating the level is already it just dog piles onto the frustration. Okay, I am done saying frustration. Maybe one more time…Frustration.

Let’s move onto to some less frustrating (darn it!), the impressive art style utilized in this title. As I have said this game is gorgeous, not just through its design, but also through the artists utilization of color and how they pair simplicity with specific lines and symbols. This is Modern Art: The Game, and I definitely felt the same inspirations and sensations I saw and felt when walking through any modern history museum I make sure I visit while on vacation. The artist (or artists) for this game need a raise, as it is definitely the bright and shiny star of a game that might be too difficult for most.

The other portion of the title that really adds to the aesthetic for this game is the score. Man, is the music in this game good. Like, it is sensational, phenomenal; something that I want to hear anytime I want to relax or hear something that will make me feel things. I really hope they composer won some award for this game because I really can’t stress enough how well the game combines visualization with what you are experiencing audibly. Truly an art piece among art pieces.

Etherborn offers something that always makes me smile. Such an artistic experience that anyone who tries to say the medium isn’t creating art has no choice but to recant their nonsense. This game belongs in a gallery; we have a perfect combination of modern art and sound that create an experience I truly enjoyed, until I started moving my character around. Don’t get me wrong, I am just bitter the puzzles are so hard, but for anyone who is also like me and gets easily frustrated by design that makes you work for it then you might have a similar experience to mine. Puzzle addicts who love nothing more than ripping their eyes out trying to solve things are the type who should jump into this title, along with anyone who is okay with working towards the end goal just to be able to experience all of the other things this game brings to the table.



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