Friday, March 30

Review: Alteric [Nintendo Switch eShop]

While there are certainly a lot of games out there swimming in complexity, nuance, and layers of gameplay systems there are also those that work by taking simple mechanics and running with them. Often eschewing the need for complex graphics as well these count on taking a simple gameplay hook and running with it, hoping you’ll enjoy the ride. One such game is Alteric, a pretty bare bones platforming title that doesn’t go to great lengths to impress with its visuals but given the simplicity of its gameplay it doesn’t need to.

Boiling it down Alteric is all about moving from Point A to Point B and keeping your humble square from being reduced to bits. You’re equipped with a handy double-jump and the ability to sort of shift the state of the screen. This ability will have a variety of effects, whether introducing platforms you can jump on, surfaces that may shield you from harm, or simply to remove part of a wall so you can proceed. While that may sound pretty limiting, much like in the case of other games like Super Meat Boy it can be surprising what variety and depth of challenges you can get out of these basic moves and abilities when you introduce the right sorts of traps and obstacles.

That said, the comparison to Super Meat Boy and its ilk shouldn’t quite be taken as an endorsement in Alteric being in the same class of quality and polish, not by a long shot. Yes, the principles are roughly the same but there’s a lack of nuance in the overall movement missing, aside from technique like wall-sliding and the like. In addition, while many of the levels are reasonably challenging and interesting there are ones that are perhaps a bit more aggravating. Part of the blame for that lies in the button scheme though. With only 2 buttons to use it would have made sense either to map each move to 2 face buttons and both triggers on either side or to allow you to map them yourself. Nope, instead you’re using only the 2 buttons prescribed, neither set of shoulder buttons is used, and that makes some moves unnecessarily harder to coordinate than they should be. You need to do some pretty quick and precisely-timed switches of the screen while you’re making a tough jump, and its aggravating when clumsy controls make this drag out longer than should be necessary. It can be conquered, but it is still an added misstep.

Adding to the aggravation is that as you move along there are levels in serious need of checkpoints. There are some tricky sections to conquer but then shortly after when you get taken out by a trap that you couldn’t have known to avoid, making you start over again back at the beginning? I’m not a fan, and it feels like a cheap way to extend the game experience at the expense of the player experience.

All said Alteric isn’t a horrible game by any means, it’s just a pretty middling one. With so many higher-quality indie platformers that are challenging and in roughly the same price range already on Switch that also makes it a tougher sell. If you relish a challenge and have exhausted the other options there’s some good gaming to be had here, just understand you’ve likely played better.

Score: 5.5

  • Simple but clean graphics that are easy to understand
  • Relatively simple controls that, for the most part, feel pretty good

  • In terms of control the button placement is an avoidable problem poorly addressed
  • Some levels can have cheap elements after challenging sections, making their existence or the lack of proper checkpoints an aggravation
  • While it’s by no means horrible there are numerous far more polished experiences within the genre already on the console