Ethan: Meteor Hunter is a physic-based puzzle-platformer from Seaven Studio that originally released on PlayStation 3 last October. The game starts with a cutscene that shows Ethan fighting with a fellow rodent when he is hit by a meteor. This collision leaves Ethan with time-stopping, telekinetic powers. Ethan then sets out to collect all the meteor parts that are scattered throughout the game, whilst chasing down the rodent that destroyed his house.
That is the main story of the game, and all of this is explained to you before you start playing. During play there are no cutscenes to add to the story which allows for you to focus all your much needed attention on the gameplay itself. Ethan: Meteor Hunter combines 2D platforming with telekinetic puzzles. These puzzles are dotted throughout the games 50+ levels, and require you to collect pause tokens to activate them. The puzzles vary from easy to extremely challenging, causing moments of frustration at times when trying to progress through a level only to get stuck on a seemingly impossible puzzle.
Although I did get frustrated often whilst playing this game, most of the time I was frustrated with myself for being unable to overcome an obstacle in the game. Ethan: Meteor Hunter’s kind checkpoints and lack of loading screen play a huge part in making the game as playable as it is. I found myself dying a lot, (the death animations themselves are great), but rather than give up I found myself carrying on, trying as many times as required until I finally beat the level.
The game is not the greatest looking game you will see on the Vita. Ethan doesn’t look too bad, but the levels and environments that you play through are very basic in appearance and have little variation. The levels are littered with many dangers such as spinning blades, steam pipes and collapsing platforms. These are reused in almost all of the levels that you play through, with the background to the level changing slightly depending on which environment you are playing through. Although the backgrounds are very basic, it is the foreground that you will need to pay attention to as you try to avoid everything that the game throws at you as you make your way towards the end of each level.
Ethan: Meteor Hunter can be very difficult at times. Even though the controls are very basic, with running, jumping and pausing time the main in-play actions, they seem at times to be unresponsive which does not help at all when timing is crucial in this game. When pausing time, to allow Ethan to manipulate the environment, you use the touchscreen to move objects, the rear touchpad to rotate and then release to position the object where needed to help you proceed. This does not always work as well as it could do, and it can take a lot of adjusting to get a wooden block placed exactly where you want it.
Once you do master the controls and learn how the telekinetic powers are used to solve puzzles, Ethan: Meteor Hunter does offer an enjoyable, yet challenging platformer. Every now and again though there are levels that are thrown in to break up the platforming. These levels come in two varieties; the first sees Ethan climb aboard a small spacecraft for some fun, side-scrolling blasting action.
The other type of level has Ethan mount a pogo stick and use this to bounce up the screen, from platform to platform until he reaches the top.These pogo levels are up there with some of the most infuriating levels that I have ever played in my life. Ethan: Meteor Hunter is a game where death is commonplace, but so are the checkpoints that are littered through the levels. However, if you die in one of these pogo stages you respawn back at the start of the level. This is made all the more frustrating when at times it seems that progression through the stage is more down to luck than skill. I found myself sat playing through the same two minute stage for almost an hour, shouting expletives at my Vita until I made it through the stage. Once I did though, the sense of achievement for making it through in one piece was overwhelming.
Ethan: Meteor Hunter’s twitch platforming is accompanied by great audio. Each sound effect is as you would imagine, with some particularly satisfying sounds as Ethan meets his doom. The soundtrack has an industrious feel – which fits in with the game’s environments, and the music has an urgency to it which matches the gameplay style. The game as a whole reminds me of some of the more difficult side-scrolling platform games from the 16 and 32-bit console era, and the soundtrack encapsulates that feel perfectly.
The levels in Ethan: Meteor Hunter are short, the game challenges you to beat them in a certain time limit, encouraging speed runs once you have mastered the levels. Each level also has a number of meteorite parts to collect, and challenges you to compete the stage using a certain amount of pause tokens. This certainly adds longevity to the game, and if you can bring yourself round to complete these challenges you can check out how you have fared on the online leaderboards from the game’s title screen.
Although not a looker, Ethan: Meteor Hunter did grab my attention and kept me playing for hours on end. The simplicity of the game’s visuals play second fiddle to the platforming and physics-based puzzles that are on display throughout. Any ‘cute’ vibe given by the game at the start is soon killed off by the sadistic death traps that brutalise Ethan as he attempts to clear a level. The combination of Ethan: Meteor Hunter‘s fun gameplay and replayability kept me coming back for more, much like Ethan himself after each death animation. Ethan: Meteor Hunter is not the greatest platform game on the PlayStation Vita, but it is different, challenging and worth a try.