I wouldn’t call myself a fan of 2.5D sidescrolling adventure games. I dive into the genre from time to time, and I generally have a great time, but games like Ethan: Meteor Hunter aren’t the kind of game I sit around looking forward to.
That said, I did finish Limbo in one big long play session and I’ve dedicated more time to Braid than is probably healthy. It seems to be like those are the two games Ethan: Meteor Hunter aspires to be the most, so that piques my interest. The only question left, then, is whether or not they get there.
It’s a strange beast, Ethan: Meteor Hunter. Self-funded and self-published by its developer, Seaven Studio, it landed on the PC and PS3 back in October of 2013, but released on Steam (the version reviewed) on the 7th of February. It was met with extremely poor sales – because that’s what happens when you release a small indie game so soon after the release of a Grand Theft Auto title – and the developers have been trying to beef up the game’s figures ever since. Being given the thumbs up by Steam Greenlight will no doubt help reinforce that interest.
But a more pertinent question than whether or not people will buy it is whether or not they should, and Ethan seems to exist in a bit of a grey area between great and rubbish. The atmosphere feels right, but the art style is, frankly, boring ,with a protagonist who seems to have an almost entirely two dimensional face as if he got his head pulled through a photocopier. Puzzles feel rewarding initially, but you’ll soon wonder if you’re accidentally stumbling across solutions rather than actually testing your gray matter. In truth, Ethan: Meteor Hunter will often make you feel like you’re more of a lucky idiot than a smarty pants.
I think grey may be a good way to describe Ethan overall. It’s all just very acceptable with very little of the experience standing out in any appreciable way. Even Ethan’s motivations seem fuzzy from the confusing intro video.
In the opening cinematic we’re introduced to Ethan’s neighbor – a prick who gets his jollies from dumping all his rubbish outside Ethan’s house. Naturally this results in Ethan punching his lights out, but while the punching ensues, a meteor falls out of the sky and flattens Ethan’s home. In response, Ethan summons telekinetic powers and crushes his neighbour with debris before running off to find lots of bits of meteor for some reason. All this over a few banana peels. Sheesh…
So off we go through underground labyrinths filled with sentient balls of spikes and acid (?) to retrieve lots of meteor pieces so that Ethan can feel like there was some bright side to his home being shattered by a space avalanche.
There’s some light platforming, but it mostly exists to compliment the puzzle system that revolves around freezing time and shifting various objects around to help Ethan get somewhere he couldn’t before. It’s hardly an original concept, but I can imagine it would work beautifully on a touch screen device like the PSVita or 3DS and adds an extra layer of complexity to the idea of pushing blocks around, then climbing on them.
Puzzles range in difficulty from “does that count as a puzzle?” to “I’m not sure how I did that” with smaller, reaction based gameplay in between. Those sections call upon Ethan to use his time-freezing powers of psycho-kinesis to make split second decisions that could very well save his skin. It’s smooth and intuitive, but it doesn’t feel rewarding, and given you often have to position Ethan perfectly on the screen before performing puzzles around him, it all feels a tad fiddly. Think Max: Curse of Brotherhood, except time freezes and the screen goes grey whenever you need to quickly whip up a vine or raise up a platform for you to stand on. Again with the grey, too.
The sound design is dull, with a barely noticeable drone serving as a backdrop to the puzzling, inoffensive bleepings when you collect a meteor fragment and a splat when Ethan gets crushed by machinery. Once again nothing stands out as either brilliant or terrible.
Areas for Development
Nothing specific from a technical standpoint
Ultimately, I found Ethan: Meteor Hunter tolerable and if you’re looking for a 2D puzzle platformer that you can tolerate, then Ethan may be right up your street. The visuals are fine, the gameplay is acceptable, the audio is unremarkable and there doesn’t appear to be a story at all. This game has nothing at all in common with marmite. So should people buy it? It all depends.
Technical competency – 7/10
Graphical state/Sound Quality – 5/10
Network stability – N/A
Overall – 6/10
(These grades assess our playthrough, taking into consideration how many (if any) bugs were encountered, whether there were any interruptions in gameplay and the product’s final technical state. These scores, coupled with the Final Analysis and Areas for Development, are suggestions for future patches and updates which the developers could (and in our opinion, should) explore. These scores are separate to our DLC/Expansion Reviews but link into our Patch/Firmware Reviews.)
(These scores are not designed as a grading system to determine the entertainment value of a product and should not be treated as such..)