There have been a lot of 2D platformers hitting the various download services recently. In order to stand out you need to do something different and do it well. Ethan: Meteor Hunter aims to mix the precision and difficulty of the Super Meatboys of the world with some old fashioned block/tile sliding puzzles (the things that used to drive us mad as kids and when you could never get the last piece in the right place).
You play a mouse named Ethan who needs to navigate a number of platform/puzzle levels while gathering chunks of meteor and eating cheese. While it might not sound that original it certainly does things a bit differently. The platforming elements are handled in pretty much the same way as a Cloudberry Kingdom or Super Meatboy, that being that they require precision jumps and timing with constant traps and dangers ready to kill you instantly.
Ethan is more about precision than breakneck speed and your character handles differently than you may expect. Our little mouse is closer to the Little Big Planet style of handling than anything else and this does take some getting used to as you work out how to use momentum and jumping to get around. It’s not something that we ever really overcame while playing, the levels seem to be designed for speed runs and yet your character just feels a little sluggish. There are numerous checkpoints to avoid having to repeat large sections but the handling does seem just a tiny bit off which can cause frustration when you mistime a slide down a hill for the thirtieth time.
The main gimmick is the ability to use telekinetic powers to move blocks around to create platforms and solve puzzles. This, for the most part, works really well and adds variety to the game. Sometimes you’ll be simply moving blocks around to get to the next area, while at others you’ll need to be in a constant flow of jumping and pausing to move blocks to block flames or traps as you pass by. It’s in sections like this that the game really comes to life and the creativity of the development team really shines through.
Levels themselves are designed to the highest standard and just about every conceivable way of twisting the basic mechanics is brought to the table. This means the game is always throwing something new at you or asking you to think about how to use your skills and abilities to reach the next area.
Players need to stay sharp as this is a tough game from the start. You will die and die often and it’s certainly the type of game to cause controller smashing. Most of the time this is due to the player but there are odd occasions where the controls will let you down. There are also a few minor issues that add to frustration. The main one of these involves small cut scenes or animations, especially when fighting bosses. You really don’t need to see a five second animation sequence over and over every time you die and it can tarnish the experience at times.
Another minor irritation is the timing of some of the sequences. In areas where things drop from the ceiling or roll along it seems that, on occasion, they don’t start quickly enough. This means that after death you then have to wait a few seconds for the object to get moving before you start charging off as otherwise you end up in the wrong place at the wrong time and die again. These are all minor issues but in a game as difficult as this it does add to the frustration when you have to repeat a section a large number of times.
Overall, Ethan: Meteor Hunter is a brash, inventive and challenging platformer. It has strong level design and a lot of imagination through its fifty or so levels. It certainly shows a lot of potential but a few minor issues with timing and controls hold it back from greatness. For those looking for more platforming action this is another must have, just be prepared to smash a few pads on your way to conquering the game.