The manicured lawns in Etherborn are minimally sculptured. Their soil is thinly layered with patches of grass contained inside gray slabs of concrete, they usually stand in stark distinction to a backdrop of crumbling pillars and decrepit buildings. And like inspecting the self-contained scenes of a diorama, you will end up ruminating over these landscapes as you unravel the puzzle of how one can traverse them. However whereas Etherborn’s minimalist magnificence carries ideas of loftier and extra bold storytelling it is as a substitute hampered a dissonant narrative, and a brevity that makes it really feel missing.
Like many platformers, Etherborn appears deceptively easy initially: simply leapfrog your method in the direction of the extent’s finale whereas gathering crystalline orbs that unlock beforehand inaccessible areas. In reality, a few of Etherborn’s geometric planes and architectural complexity very a lot harken again to Monument Valley, a title that famously performs on optical illusions and the mathematically-inspired artwork of MC Escher. What makes this puzzle recreation totally different is that its legal guidelines of gravity aren’t like our world’s. You’ll be able to merely stroll throughout any surface–even these perpendicular to your character–as lengthy as there is a curved edge that connects them. Nevertheless, you are still weak to accidents and demise; by chance sliding off these landscapes and into the limitless void under is a chance.
Scaling these lopsided grounds introduces one other dimension and new, unexpected challenges. Etherborn usually manipulates your views, difficult you to seek out the summary options to its puzzles. There are events the place I used to be left baffled, unable to maneuver on, solely to appreciate a lot later that I did not discover a couple of platforms I may leap on as a result of they had been turned onto their sides. At different occasions, you might even spend the majority of a stage on a horizontal wall and leaping over chasms throughout the similar plane–a perspective that is powerful to get the dangle of. It is extremely possible that you will slip by means of the cracks not less than a few times as a result of obtuse angles and see your self spiraling downwards into the vacancy under (or sideways, given the sport’s unconventional gravitational pull).
Key to fixing some puzzles is a eager eye for element, which can assist you to identify obscure passageways that open one other path to your purpose. Turning into intimately accustomed to the nooks and crannies of each miniature world is one thing you will wish to don’t solely to fulfill your curiosity concerning the environment–it’s additionally essential if you wish to get by means of the sport’s ranges. Upping the ante in later chapters are shifting monochrome blocks, which increase and retract relying on the place you are–and they could be a nice supply of grievance once they hinder your path.
It could have been a drag to decide to all these efforts if Etherborn’s ecosystem had been a lusterless one. Fortunately, wandering and discovering every microcosm is usually joyful and even oddly meditative. You’ll be able to hike alongside the facet of a flight of steps and discover a starkly totally different panorama tucked away beneath, or run alongside the contours of the constructions surrounding the island. Regardless that Etherborn’s world is sparsely embellished and will even seem sterile, with only some shrubberies, dandelions and components of city decay adorning every world, it’s a universe nonetheless feels genuinely intriguing.
Discovering a hidden passage or a curved pathway as a brand new technique of transferring ahead towards uncharted surfaces is massively gratifying. Given that you will in all probability be devoting a good period of time tinkering away at its puzzles, it additionally helps that the orchestral, instrumental soundtrack is soothing and non-intrusive. And whereas there are solely 5 chapters within the recreation, every will in all probability take you not less than an hour to determine. Coupled with its steep ranges of issue, it is also comforting that errors by way of unintended deaths are additionally shortly forgiven, with the sport swiftly transporting you again to the state you had been in a couple of seconds in the past.
What’s decidedly much less spectacular, nonetheless, is how arduous Etherborn tries to shoehorn an ill-fitting narrative throughout the puzzles. You are a featureless, clear humanoid determine with a really seen circulatory system, a personality vaguely resembling the human anatomy model present in a biology classroom. On the behest of an incorporeal, hallowed voice, you are tasked to journey throughout these lands searching for a sequence of waypoints. Tapping on these will finally reveal varied paths on a large tree known as the Infinite Tree, its bark step by step peeling off to show a meandering, vein-like system throughout its trunk that ties all of the chapters collectively. It is a nifty inclusion that references the sport’s imagery of humanity and anatomy, however in the end an inconsequential one.
Whilst this disembodied voice tells a narrative that alludes to the beginnings of human civilization, the plot feels perfunctory and surprisingly divorced from its puzzles. Except for introducing every chapter, the voice would not affect the sport very a lot; as a substitute, it merely delves into obscure parables concerning the folly of human nature, with out actually explaining the importance of your model character and this unique world. This sense of dissonance makes the story quite tenuous to comply with. Exacerbating that is how the dialogue is stuffed with summary concepts that teeter on pretentiousness, bloated with lofty strains like, “And so, their huge ego was additionally decreased to mere language.” Etherborn would have been much more intriguing had it allowed you to challenge your personal tales and interpretations onto this universe–like many curious onlookers would as they peer right into a diorama.
The highlights of Etherborn are undoubtedly its creative puzzles and its constellation of small, compelling worlds. However with simply 5 chapters, its temporary runtime feels missing, and it left me wanting for extra puzzles to unravel. Etherborn makes an attempt to compensate for this by unlocking a brand new recreation plus mode after you’ve got accomplished the sport, which helps you to dive into the identical worlds as soon as extra. This mode is basically just like the unique one, the one distinction being the crystalline orbs, that are positioned in harder-to-reach locations. Other than the marginally tougher platforming puzzles, nonetheless, the electrifying thrill of discovery has largely subsided–you’ve already discovered all of the secrets and techniques, after all–and there’s little incentive to revisit it. By the top, even the attract of those small worlds is not sufficient to make you come, with solely the craving for extra remaining in its wake.