Posted by Jamie Laike Tsui on Aug 4, 2013

Ethan: Meteor Hunter Preview

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Ethan: Meteor Hunter is the French indie studio Seaven Studio’s first game. The studio is comprised of seven developers who worked at Hydravision Entertainment before the company went under in September 2012. The team decided to continue working together and save a project they were working on. They cobbled together their life savings and went indie to bring Ethan: Meteor Hunter to market.

Ethan: Meteor Hunter is a side scrolling puzzle platformer. The title character is Ethan, a mouse who has gained mysterious telekinetic powers after a meteor crash lands in the world and shatters into thousands of pieces. He is now on an epic journey to gather up all the fallen pieces that will take him across three different worlds  The game is currently in alpha status, with a slated release for a summer 2013 release.

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The puzzle platforming gameplay in Ethan: Meteor Hunter is pretty classic stuff, with a big twist. With the help of a special power up, Ethan can temporarily stop time and rearrange blocks in the level, allowing him to reach places previously inaccessible. The levels are full of dangerous traps that will introduce Ethan to an early demise in a variety of grisly manners. Upon dying, players will be sent back to the last checkpoint to start again. The checkpoint system works well, providing those who may not be very skilled at platformers a chance to enjoy the game.

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The controls in Ethan: Meteor Hunter are a little confusing at this point. Although they work well, the tutorial is labelled for the Xbox 360 controller. Those using mouse and keyboard to control the game will have to figure out the equivalent key presses at the start of the tutorial with the help of the bind keys menu.

The Alpha Demo is exactly that at the moment. Only a small portion of the levels are currently available. A short, barebones tutorial and how to play section is all that is available. There is no way to save the game progress, so experiment away! Those terrible scores you posted on the last run will disappear when the game is closed. There are some gameplay elements that are completely self-explanatory, but others really need a small tutorial in the final version of the game. A good example are the red platforms that crumbled after a few moments and the sticky glue found on some surfaces that allows Ethan to jump from wall to wall.

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The levels starts out rather easy, but the difficulty level suddenly ramps up to extremely high once timed based pressures like saw blades begin mercilessly chasing Ethan. Some serious difficulty changes will need to be made to help lower skilled players to enjoy the game. Those who find the levels too easy can provide themselves with a greater challenge by collecting all the meteor pieces in each level in the fastest time possible. There are some incredibly devious placements that will require either doubling back and sacrificing some time or the perfect jump.

There are some great ideas in Ethan: Meteor Hunter. The puzzles on the range from simply creating a platform for Ethan to leap onto, to more complex ones requiring the player to route power from one point to another with metal blocks, while using nonconductive wooden blocks to prop up the metal ones. There is even a shoot’em up level where Ethan rides a small rocket ship and must dodge a variety of bombs and balls of laser fired at him. Ethan’s ship is armed with a small gun that can destroy incoming mines. I would have liked to see this gun autofire, as parts of the level resulted in me mashing the space key like it was going out of style. Seaven Studio has some interesting ideas to ensure that Ethan: Meteor Hunter is anything but a generic puzzle platformer.

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Ethan: Meteor Hunter is presented as a 3d side scrolling platformer. Everything but the static backgrounds are three dimensional. The art style is cartoony, reminding me of the early days of computer animated films. The visuals are crisp and the visual presentation of important gameplay elements are easy to understand. I do hope the current static 2d backgrounds are temporary, as some of them are a little pixelated.

The sound effects are decent, though the default volume seems to cause the music to drown out the much softer sound effects right now. The music is a little on the dark side, feeling perfect for the darker themed levels, but hopefully there are some lighter tunes for the lighter areas in the full release.

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Ethan: Meteor Hunter has some great potential to be a great platformer that takes the traditional puzzle platformer and gives it a good twist. Even in its early state, Ethan: Meteor Hunter shows it has the stuff to be a unique game that platformer fans will love. The game is currently available as a free Alpha Demo at the Steam Greenlight page.

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