The lights are on
I’m running as fast as possible, chasing down a rolling ball that I need to use as a weight to activate a switch. I masterfully dodge numerous buzz saws and just as the ball is about to fall into a hole, I freeze time and move around a few blocks in the environment to make a bridge. The ball hits the switch, opening the final door in the level and I cry out in satisfaction. This stunt took about 15 minutes to pull off. Situations like this are very common in Ethan: Meteor Hunt, a tough game that offers a fun mix of 2D platforming and telekinetic puzzle solving.
The game, developed by French independent studio Seaven, has some similarities with other platformers. The main character, Ethan, has to run, jump, and slide his way through each level. Sliding is by far the best way to get around, as it causes Ethan to move at thrilling speeds and allows him to make huge jumps. What distinguishes this game from the crowded platformer field is Ethan can also stop time and move objects around, though he has to pick up special tokens to activate the ability. Most of the movable objects are platforms or boxes that can be used in interesting ways. They also have special properties; wooden platforms can be burned and iron girders conduct electricity.
Ethan’s telekinesis is primarily used to solve the puzzles. During one level, I had to find a way across a large gap. To solve the puzzle, I jumped as far as I could and froze time when Ethan began to fall. I then moved a platform right under Ethan’s feet, unfroze time, and jumped off it before the platform fell to the ground. It took me several tries to figure this out, and this puzzle was easy compared to most of the other ones.
Make no mistake, this game is not easy. I died from platforming blunders and messed up on puzzles numerous times per level. But the instantaneous respawn system encouraged me to keep trying until I figured out the solution. Platforming veterans could probably get through a level without dying too often, but it’s nice to have a system that helps those of us who have less experience.
For the most part, the game maintains an addictive balance between fun and frustrating. The one exception was the first boss battle. It had three phases, but no checkpoint, so whenever I died I had to start the whole process from the beginning. To make the situation worse, that rat *** sneered at me every time I reentered the room.
The gameplay often changes between levels to keep things fresh. In a couple of levels, Ethan has to move quickly as giant buzz saws chase him. One level turns into a scrolling shooter similar to Raiden, while another has Ethan jumping on a pogo stick to ascend platforms. Perfectionists can also tackle challenges for each level. These involve collecting all meteor fragments, using telekinesis as few times as possible, finishing within a time limit, and finding the hidden cheese.
The controls and movements are tight, which benefits the fast-paced action. Players have less control over Ethan when he’s in the air, making some of the precision jumping difficult to pull off. It’s not as floaty as LittleBigPlanet but it’s close. General movement works better with a controller, while telekinetically moving items is much easier with the mouse and keyboard. Thankfully, on the PC, both control methods can be used simultaneously. The game ran smoothly with minimal loading, even though I was using a basic Intel graphics card.
Ethan: Meteor Hunter is coming to the PS3 and PC on October 22. Those who bought the Early Adopter or Supporter Editions for PC can play the game now. The PC version can be purchased through the game's website, but those who want it for Steam can still vote for it on Greenlight.
Email the author Mike Trinh, or follow on Game Informer.
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