Etherborn Preview: Lose your lunch in this gravity-shifting mindfuck
Gravity is one of the constants on our dear Earth. Ever since that scientist bloke got a concussion from a wayward apple we’ve had a pretty strong grasp on how to predict its effects.
Trust video games, then, to go and screw it all up. Etherborn prides itself on trouncing our preconceptions with brain-boggling puzzle platforming from every which way. A new trailer released today which you can check out below, and I got to play its first few levels in an alpha preview.
At first glance Etherborn may seem like a typical platformer. But embark upon a curved edge and your centre of gravity will seamlessly be rotated by 90 degrees. It’s enough to make you feel all funny in the pit of your stomach.
Progression relies on gathering special orbs to activate touchpads. The spanner in the works is that these are hidden in all manner of awkward places. My first real “a-ha!” moment was when I crossed a bridge, flipped gravity on the other side then descended back across the bridge sideways, discovering the power orb I needed to proceed.
After gently easing you into its core concepts Etherborn soon intensifies the challenge. Its levels twist and turn in surprising ways, and power orbs are cunningly nestled within. Not only do you have to reach the right place – with six potential directions of gravity you have to ensure you’re on the right side of said place.
The levels are so complex, developers Altered Matter apparently had to use Lego to visualise how they’d work in practice. What doesn’t help is the disorientingly strong-willed camera, prone to spinning in undesired orientations. This’ll need taming somewhat before release, but what I saw was otherwise promisingly well-polished for an alpha build.
Worth mentioning are Etherborn’s diffuse lighting and soft pastel environments. These are spine-chillingly pretty, enhanced by gorgeous depth-of-field effects. Admittedly it shows as much restraint with this as an eager photography student who’s just got their hands on their first DSLR. But a soft focus is the perfect fit for its abstract, picturesque world.
I’m keen to see how Etherborn develops its head-scratchingly omnidirectional platforming. In the meantime, I’m keeping my feet planted firmly on gravitationally-predictable ground.