Preview: ‘Ethan: Meteor Hunter’ – A Puzzle Platformer for Platformer Purists

Ethan: Meteor Hunter is a 2.5D platformer, being developed by Seaven Studios, a small independent team based north of France. The studio contains seven employees from the late Hydravision studio, which closed in September last year. Together, the team is building an interesting addition to the puzzle-platformer genre, one that has the potential to provide that sadistic itch witch platforming purists enjoy. After spending several hours with Meteor Hunter, it was clear that this game has the potential to be PC and PlayStation 3′s answer to the ‘Splosion Man series.

Meteor Hunter screamed ‘Splosion Man throughout my time with the game. It provided that brutal challenge that infuriated me, yet I couldn’t stop playing. We play the game as Ethan, a small mouse who has been hit by meteor fragments, giving him the special ability to stop time, and interact with objects in the environment. Players must utilize these abilities, alongside frantic-paced platforming, to navigate the challenging levels, which require Ethan to avoid dangerous objects, such as flames, electric currents, and metal spikes. Sounds simple, right? Well Meteor Hunter isn’t afraid to ramp up the difficulty in its later levels. You will die, and you will die a lot.

When the game is released, players will be given 50 levels spread amongst 3 separate worlds. Completing these worlds will give the player more abilities, adding to the difficulty as you play. While players will obtain deal with new abilities, the main focus will be Ethan’s ability to stop time. While paused, you can grab certain objects that can be moved, rotated, and placed at your will. This is where Meteor Hunter feels unique. Fast placed platformers are a dime a dozen, but the added ability to pause time, and interact with the world on the fly works well.

One of the later levels required me to navigate while an ever ominous sea of acid rose from the floor. At certain points, we must pause time, and move the environment to our advantage. These moments provided a frantic battle to quickly traverse the objects we rearranged, swapping between our pause ability on the fly, to gradually make our way to safety. It gave a sense of intensity to the platforming, which meant that you couldn’t just rely on break neck reflexes to escape death; you must think about how these objects can be placed to give you the time needed to escape. It is a great balance between puzzle, and platforming, relying on both skills to survive.

Ethan’s pause ability can only be used when you collect pause icons. These icons usually appear before a segment requiring this ability, meaning that players cannot rely on the ability often. If you run out of pause icons, and haven’t solved the puzzle, you will have to restart from the last checkpoint, and try again.

Meteor Hunter’s levels work well, but it is in the control department where I found a few problems. Making subtle jumps is difficult, as Ethan plays at a frantic pace, and trying to make pinpoint jumps, and getting him to stop in time is a tough task. It feels like you are fighting against the controls at certain points, in order to allow the subtle manoeuvres the level requires. This definitely stood out during the harder sections, and it’s by no means a breaking point that ruined the experience, but it is definitely an area that could use tightening up. One of the most important parts of a platformer is great controls, and all the classic games of the past have provided tight, responsive gameplay. Meteor Hunter’s gameplay could definitely improve, if they could balance the fast paced abilities with a more precise control of Ethan.

Though story is never the key focus of a puzzle-platformer, there were not too many story details during my time with the game. I knew how the character was given these abilities, and I assume we will be given a better introduction in the final product. Meteor Hunter’s focus is on replayability. Each level contains a number of meteor fragments to collect, and time challenges to beat. There was no indication if these would somehow work into unlocking levels, or abilities, but they definitely will provide players with extra challenging goals to complete throughout each level. Do you dare tempt fate to grab that one last fragment before the checkpoint? It is here where players will find out their level of commitment, or insanity, as they try to 100% each level.

Ethan: Meteor Hunter has some great potential to frustrate, and infuriate, which is what I expect from a quality puzzle-platformer. ‘Splosion Man constantly got on my nerves, constantly made me hate myself, and constantly allowed me to practice my potty mouth, yet I loved every minute of it. Meteor Hunter may not be on the same level as ‘Splosion Man in its current state, but Ethan has great potential to provide an experience platforming purists will love. Providing unique mechanics, alongside some challenging levels, Ethan may have a chance to make me hate myself that little bit more.