Ethan: Meteor Hunter (PC) review
- Stays on the right side of "challenging" - punishes you for failure but quick to let you try again
- Some engaging puzzles to solve with the physics objects
- Lots of reasons to replay levels chasing different targets
Not so much?
- Inconsistencies in difficulty from level to level
- Ethan himself is not to the same graphical standard as the environments
- Strange pacing of some levels, needing to pause a pursuit to move objects
- Repetitive - although admittedly catchy - music
Ethan: Meteor Hunter is a game that challenges you while also trying to offer support. Dying is commonplace, but level design means you get another run at things moments later. It does however suffer from inconsistencies in difficulty, pacing, and visuals. But if you’re looking for a game that punishes you for failure but feel like a hero when you succeed, Ethan might well be for you.
Some games are not just about having fun – they are a personal challenge to prove you’re as good as you think you are. Step forward Ethan: Meteor Hunter.
Ethan is an anthropomorphic mouse, apparently given telekinetic powers by a falling meteor and setting out to collect the other pieces in a series of side scrolling platform environments.
The trailer for the game sums this up, So Many Ways To Die. On route, Ethan will get crushed, electrocuted, shot, drown in acid, burned by fire, blasted by steam, minced by small spinning bladed wheels, or minced by large spinning bladed wheels (just for variety).
This is one-hit-kills territory, and level designs show a strange combination of sadistic glee at setting you up to fail mixed with much needed support in the form of regular – and well placed – checkpoints. If you trigger one, there is undoubtedly something vicious ahead; and when – not if – you die, you’ll be back at the reset checkpoint before your body parts have had time to hit the ground.
There is also a “return to checkpoint” button – which you will need when trapped. The environment has a lot of physics-related objects littering it – moveable objects have centres of gravity, and will slide and fall appropriately (including one early stage requiring you to leap onto and off of a block just as it tips off an edge for a little extra height – failure required respawning). These are one of the few things in the game that won’t kill Ethan, but they can end up forming impassable barricades.
So far, so basic. However, Ethan’s new-found power adds puzzle elements to some areas – on collecting a power up, you can pause time (although this is not the same as pausing the clock, to be clarified below) and move specified objects around the area. This can range from dropping a block onto a switch or as a stair, to rotating a bunsen-burner making it burn down an item, to swapping irregularly shaped pieces around a confined space in a tangled logic puzzle.
This does result in some strangely paced levels – occasionally having to pause your flight from imminent death to rearrange things ahead of you.
That said, the pacing in terms of difficulty is also rather erratic. Few of the levels could be described as easy, but the some are definitely harder than others.
Just for variety there are also two alternative level types – pogo stick and a side scrolling shooter ala R-Type. While the shooter does feel a touch out-of-place among all the platforming, the pogo stick levels are a blast, having to ascend a tower filled with all of the standard obstacles and being pressed to keep moving.
Progress through the game is simply based on completing levels; as long as you can make it to the exit, you have access to the next one and can revisit at will later. And completionists will have a lot to return for as each level has a set of challenges –
- collection of meteor fragments (scattered collectables, usually on route to the exit but with some usually in hard-to-reach areas);
- time based (making as fast a run as possible. It should also be mentioned that the time-pausing ability may stop the world but it does not stop the clock);
- and using a minimum of pauses (often requiring a fresh look at areas – using a slide to jump something, or finding ways to position objects that doubles up their usefulness).
Achieving all three is unlikely if not impossible in a single run, but once a challenge is achieved that is saved for posterity, leading to specific hunts for fragments or races against the clock.
Just to add something else to replay for, some levels also have hidden pieces of cheese, which Ethan will chow down on given the chance.
This does of course lead into trophies, which are awarded for a variety of things – completing a level with no pauses at all, completing all of the pogo stick levels, and so on… as well as little digs at the player such as spending a long time on a puzzle or number of deaths.
Graphically, the game is mostly impressive – the environments showing blades, logs, platforms, flames and the like all fantastically detailed. On the flipside, Ethan himself doesn’t look to the same standard; lacking the same sort of detail that has gone into scenery textures, and appearing rigid in his animation (although this not affecting his actually abilities).
As for the music… it’s fast paced, and certainly appropriate to a game where speed can be good or bad. It does also become repetitive, as something you’ll be hearing a lot while returning to that checkpoint yet again having failed to avoid the death caused by everything in world.
Oh, and the tune can get caught in your head, in the same way an over-played jingle in a radio advert can – becoming part of the soundtrack to your day whether you want it to or not. Don’t get me wrong – the music isn’t bad, but more variety would have been very welcome.
Ethan: Meteor Hunter is a game that challenges you while also trying to offer support. Dying is not only commonplace, it is also probably what you’ll do more than anything else but jump; however, level design means you get another run at things without penalty moments later to cut down frustration.
It does suffer from inconsistencies – levels varying in difficulty, mixes of reaction test and paused time puzzles, the quality of the environment graphics not matched by Ethan himself, and the music being decent if repetitive and needing more tracks to mix things up.
But if you’re looking for a game that spends half it’s time making you feel small by punishing you for failure, then a hero when you succeed, Ethan might well be for you.
Ethan: Meteor Hunter is available now for PC and PS3; it is also looking to be Greenlit on Steam.