A smorgasboard of guff. A cavalcade of twaddle. A gaudy procession of nonsense and faux-artsy bollocks, presenting itself as something deeper than it could ever strive to be.
Urgh. Sorry. It’s hard to shake off the pretentiousness. Suffice it to say, if you have little or no tolerance for “It’s Very Deep Actually You Just Don’t Get It” stuff, Etherborn will piss you right off.
I think if I use the term “Mario Galaxy but it’s a puzzle game”, you’ve probably got a decently clear image of what Etherborn is in your mind. The environment itself is the puzzle here, as your nameless (and faceless) avatar can walk on any face of the cuboid world they find themselves in. To alter gravity, they must walk along speicifcally curved pathways that alter which face they are standing on. The puzzles, then, come in finding the correct combination and order of these ramps to navigate so you can find your way to the correct face in order to proceed.
The level design is super tight, impressively so. I didn’t find any janky exploits or wonky transitions, even in later levels involving a lot of back-and-forth travel. The ramps themselves could stand with being signposted more clearly as I often overlooked which part of the ground could be walked on versus which would send me plummeting to my death, but each face is cleverly colour coded to give a better sense of where, exactly, in the world you are.
Major problem comes with the camera, whose pivot is not on the player character, nor on the world. Rather, the pivot is the camera itself- pushing the camera left is like turning your head left, instead of panning to the left. In text it’s hard to explain why this is a problem, but it essentially means you can’t look around corners or obstacles to see what lurks beyond- a tremendous hindrance when the entire game is based around navigating a complex maze of dimensions.
The biggest problem though is the utterly meaningless cutscenes which punctuate level transitions, in which a female voice condescends to you with some absolute drivel. I don’t know how the VA managed to narrate the whole thing without once saying “what the blithering heck does this mean?”. Maybe she didn’t.
Fin or Bin:
I’ve given Etherborn some mixed praise here. What it comes down to is- this kind of puzzle game typically frustrates me more than it entertains, and Etherborn is no exception. I can tolerate it for a game with a compelling story, or humorous wit, but the narrative here is neither. The reward for completing levels is to be subjected to another load of cobblers that doesn’t even want to be understood. Maybe some people would get something out of that, but I sure don’t, and I’m not a patient enough person to solve the (admittedly well crafted) puzzles presented. Stated plainly, without any hogwash, it’s Binned. Gameplay here!