Ethan: Meteor Hunter is marred by erratic level design, frustrating boss fights, finicky controls and puzzles that constantly disrupt the pace of the game.
Over the past few years, platformers have become more and more punishing. Super Meat Boy was probably one of the titles that started this trend, since the game was a throwback to platformers of yesteryear. But one of the reasons why Team Meat’s modern classic works so well is because the game never asks you to do something that the controls don’t allow, so the main character has the ability to perform some truly amazing feats. In a sense it seems like 2.5D platformer Ethan: Meteor Hunter tries to follow Super Meat Boy’s footsteps, but a handful of problems prevent the game from rising above the rest.
It’s worth mentioning that this is a puzzle platformer, so apart from jumping over platforms and collecting the meteor fragments that are scattered around the numerous levels, some puzzles punctuate your journey across three worlds. These brainteasers encourage you to collect specific items that let you pause the game. Once the game’s paused, you can manipulate various objects to activate mechanisms, build temporary shelter, construct improvised bridges and so on.
Apart from the more traditional levels, there are pogo stick and spaceship levels. In the former, the main character uses a pogo stick to jump over platforms and once the screen moves upwards, falling off a precipice means instant death. This means you’ll need to restart the level from the beginning, so memorizing the layout of the environments is paramount. Unfortunately, the way in which the pogo behaves is quite erratic, so you’ll find yourself falling off platforms over and over, at least until you get used to the game’s peculiar physics. Making precise jumps is quite difficult at first because jumping has a “floaty” quality to it that makes it imprecise.
The spaceship levels are more entertaining (or should I say less frustrating?) Controlling the spaceship is easier and when you ride the small spacecraft, you can shoot the obstacles that get in your way, such as moving boulders. The only criticism about these levels is that there should have been more of them, since they offer a nice change of pace.
So the difficulty in Ethan: Meteor Hunter ramps up rapidly. What’s the problem with that? After all, I’ve definitely played harder games than this one. Actually, there are several problems, including the game’s physics and the fact that some of the levels are so hard that instead of feeling rewarded for finally finishing it, you feel relived they are over. It also doesn’t help that some levels are much harder than others. On the regular levels, for instance, dying carries no penalty. You’re taken to the last checkpoint and worst case scenario, you lose a few seconds. Dying on the pogo stick levels, on the other hand, means replaying the thing again which is way too frustrating.
As a way of encouraging you to find the solution to puzzles by yourself, Ethan: Meteor Hunter uses a trial-and-error approach. But instead of feeling gratifying, most puzzles seem like a waste of time, since they constantly disrupt the pace of the game. Not only are most of them harder than they look, but they give the impression that they are there for the mere purpose of ruining the platforming.
Nevertheless, the parts that make the game a platformer, aren’t free of issues either. Controls feel imprecise and it seems like the game constantly asks you to do things that the controls don’t allow. Naturally, this makes the game harder than it already is and when you die because of the game and not because of your inexperience or recklessness, you’ll wish you were playing something else.
On top of that, boss fights are one of the most frustrating aspects of the game. In a sense, each boss fight represents a puzzle you need to figure out. This means that you’ll spend a lot of time dying until you finally understand what you’re supposed to do. But even when you do know what you’re supposed to do, everything in the game seems to conspire against you, so you keep dying.
And the list of problems goes on and on. Ethan: Meteor Hunter is marred by erratic level design, frustrating boss fights, finicky controls and puzzles that disrupt the pace of the game. This is a game that’s hard just for the sake of being hard. Ethen: Meteor Hunter clearly illustrates how platformers shouldn’t be made.