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Review: Alteric (Nintendo Switch)By ringlord71 At 08.05.2019 18:33

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Whether it is an attempt to come across as "artsy" or not, Alteric displays a minimalistic setup. Stages are made up of dark platforms and ledges, and the main character in this piece is a white block. The contrasting colour style allows for a greater focus on the simpler aspects of the platformer. There is no artistic detail to be found in the environments and background palettes, with this design choice being reminiscent of the old animated film Flebus. However, thanks to the backing tracks, these stages do carry an eerie sense of dread.

It is clear from the outset that Alteric has drawn inspiration from many other platforming titles created by indie developers. Anyone who has played Fiddlestick's interesting platformer Hue will notice the immediate parallels with the mechanics for Alteric. Stages exist on two different "planes," and switching between the two is as simple as pressing a button for instant swaps. Each plane has its own colour palette, and features differing ledges and platforms to each other, depending on the stage.

Sometimes a stage may not have a clear path to the end on one of the planes. Switching to the opposite plane may then result in new platforms appearing that will help the block to get across to the end. Where Hue played around with four different coloured-planes, Alteric only dabbles with two. This mechanic works well, and the button press initiates an immediate switch with no lag. Some of the later puzzles requires switching between planes while in mid-jump to reach that planes platforms, so switching planes must become your second nature.

As the block's journey progresses, new mechanics get introduced to allow for more complex puzzle-solving. One such mechanic involves reproducing a moveable box that can be moved around on the stage. One of the real interesting mechanics that changes the gameplay is the gravity-swapping tool. Using this basically reverses the fall of gravity, meaning that at some stages, the controlled block will have to walk along on the ceiling of the stage and perform some gravity-reversing stunts. This is an area that had real potential for some really cool and nifty puzzle sequences, but unfortunately, Alteric falls flat on its face here.

The white block that is attempting to traverse these stages controls poorly. One of the worst things to have ever crept into platformers since the beginning of the genre has always been the dreaded 'slide.' As the platforming sections of the stages get many, and the sizes of these platforms get smaller, there are many a frustrating moment when the block lands the jump… only to slide off the end of it.

The entire game seems to play out on ice; with the white block sliding on the ground from the moment it lands a jump. This is a real shame for a title that tries to emulate the experience found in other skill-based platformers. The annoying slide really takes the skill out of Alteric, and inadvertently adds an extra, unnecessary obstacle to the experience.

Unfortunately, this means that trying to traverse the gravity-based stages are an absolute nightmare. The stages themselves are designed for precision-platforming - and there is nothing wrong with that provided the controls allow for it. However, Alteric doesn't perform very well; and the dreaded "slide" further hampers the experience. It becomes an almost impossible task of traversing through gravity-switching stages containing spikes and other traps that punish for even the smallest of errors.

Rather than being an experience with a hard skill-based difficulty, this block-controlled platformer is punishing due to its inability to pull off the most basic of functions. There will be lots of deaths in here, and most of them will be caused by the controlled block sliding off the edge of a platform. Perhaps with less sliding off the edges, Alteric may have been the product it had hinted at being from the opening tutorial.

The stages are quite lengthy to traverse; now normally this wouldn't be an issue. However, due to the crippling and difficult gameplay, these stages become quite tedious. There is a handy checkpoint feature that can be too generous at times. Some of the easier stages seems to have checkpoints closer together and is more generous in its positioning. But then on the other end of the spectrum, the tougher levels that badly need closer checkpoints don't have them. Closer checkpoints on these harder stages would've countered against the constant deaths caused by a mediocre control scheme.

During boss fights, the gameplay switches to be more of an action-packed platformer; and these moments are much more fun than the standardised platforming found on all the other stages. When the controlled block dies, it respawns in the midst of the battle. Yet again there is another major gripe to this. Rather than respawning out of danger, sometimes there will be the random respawn directly on top of the boss - resulting in another quick death. Maybe including a temporary state of invincibility off a respawn to allow the block to escape harm's way would help to circumvent the issue...

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Final Score
[i]Alteric[/i] had the potential to be a good alternative to the difficult platforming genre. However, the various issues that rise up, from "sliding" off during intricate platforming sections, to respawning on top of a boss for another immediate death, can be very annoying. The skill that is normally required for traversing these difficult platformers goes out the window in [i]Alteric[/i], as the controls and level design work together to make things unfair instead of being challenging. The gravity - and plane - switching features are cool mechanics and it is a shame that they were hampered by the controls.



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