Friday, July 19, 2019
Puzzle games walk a fine line between unchallenging busywork and depressingly unforgiving bottlenecks. Both are equally likely to stop players cold, sending them on to a more rewarding diversion.
"Etherborn" trends violently toward the tougher side of the equation. After a few warm-up puzzles, you're thrown into an increasingly hellacious fire, stuck way over your head with only your hyperstressed wits to push you forward.
Gravity, momentum and perspective can be twisted and manipulated to your advantage, with each successive challenge building on what came before to add considerable depth and complexity, upping the rewarding struggle each time out.
Developer Altered Matter deserves praise for its creativity and scene-setting, with a stunning art style that connects with its themes of inner struggle and outer validation. The melding of the psychospiritual aspects in the writing are hit and miss, but the overall tone rings true to the intent.
Many players who brave the stinging gauntlet that is "Etherborn" will find themselves giving up in frustration or over-relying on walkthroughs. Those who play things straight, however, will find the effort they put in returned in kind, with a cleansing feeling of satisfaction drifting in with each triumph.
"Etherborn" could have benefitted from a more even buildup, but it also deserves credit for not wasting players' times and getting right down to business. A bold and vigorous puzzle that seeks out bold and vigorous players, "Etherborn" unapologetically weighs in, agitating all comers into a mental slugfest.
Publisher provided review code.