Developed and published by indie studio Altered Matter, Etherborn is a gravity shifting, exploration puzzle-platformer, and an extremely beautiful one at that.
You awake in a mysterious world by the sound of a voice, calm yet chilling at the same time. In fact, it sounds similar at least in style to the voice that awakens Link in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Unlike Link though, you have no face, no voice, just the translucent humanoid shell of a being with a collection of internal organs on display, and what is either a nerve relay or a series of arteries and veins throughout your body. As gross as that sounds though it is anything but.
You must follow the sound of this body-less voice on a journey of discovery, not just of your environment, but about yourself as well. Along the way, you will learn about the existence of humanity and the tragedy it had become. It really is quite a dark tale. But the design of the game delivers the story in such a beautiful way that the game doesn’t seem that dark at all. Or at least not in the three levels I played in the beta demo, but who knows where it will go from there.
What I will say though is that Etherborn has some gorgeous environments and the most serene musical score I have heard in a game for a very long time. I enjoy a good puzzle game, I even enjoy when they become so difficult they work you up into a rage. But despite making the odd mistake here and there during the demo, I found the music managed to relax me enough I didn’t smash up my keyboard and scream at my PC for cheating. It almost took me on my own journey of self-discovery that I didn’t need to scream and shout because it wasn’t going to help me at all.
The gameplay itself was quite fun, and the controls were simple to pick up. Although the mechanics of movement seemed to change but whether that was intentional or not I’m not sure because it wasn’t always consistent. Sometimes you’d move and as camera angles rolled across to change the view, the arrow keys would work as they did seconds earlier, other times they almost adjusted slightly so you had to press them together or slightly differently in order to run in the direction you want. This could be because I used my keyboard though and may have been different with a controller like the developers suggest you play with.
The puzzles themselves were quite easy, but they are only early levels so it wasn’t exactly going to be rocket science from the off. What impressed me though was not just how well the gravity shifts work in the game, but how it does really leave you thinking about what your next move might be. Sometimes it can be as simple as running up a wall or around a column, but other times you will have to drop off the edge of one area to reach another, and you do sometimes find yourselves running around in circles.
It is only early days, but personally, I think there is a lot of promise for Etherborn. I really do love the visual and audio aspect of it, and the way the story is told is done so extremely well. I’d like to see puzzles becoming more complex as you venture further into the game, which could well be the plan anyway, but besides the issue of the control I had with movement, I couldn’t find much more to fault the game on. I really look forward to seeing more from this title in the future.
Oh, and one tip I will offer without spoiling anything is that there are objects you use as keys to unlock new areas during levels, and these can be picked up after you’ve used them and be reused elsewhere. Whether that’s meant to be the case or I cheated I’m not sure, but it worked.
Etherborn is developed and published by the indie game studio Altered Matter, and will be available on Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4 and Xbox One. For more details, and to keep up to date with the game you can visit the official website by clicking HERE.
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