The challenging puzzle platformer subgenre has become very popular over the last few years, but there is a fine line separating a puzzler that is hard yet fair and one that just seems impossible at times. Ethan Meteor Hunter made me swear a lot, shut off my Vita, come crawling back, and then repeat the cycle. The meteor-obsessed mouse and his hunt had moments of brilliance, but so many more moments that frustrated.
The game begins with a small scene where a meteor falls out of the sky destroying, causing some damage and granting Ethan telekinetic powers. We also learn Ethan and his neighbour do not get along, and that mouse becomes the antagonist. That’s pretty much the entirety of the game’s story and it’s there just to set things into motion. The game itself starts off simple enough with a brief tutorial but pretty soon after you’re plunged into scenario after scenario of mental exercise and woe.
The telekinetic powers of Ethan are used to solve the puzzles that are put in front of you, and advance through the levels. This works by Ethan picking up tokens in levels with each one allowing you to freeze time. If you run out of tokens you run out opportunities to solve the puzzles. However, the checkpoint system is generous enough that you can instantly restart a section and try to learn from your mistakes.
Since this version is on Vita there are touch controls that can be used to move about puzzle pieces using either the rear panel or the screen itself. Despite these two options present I felt that the combo of the R button and right analog stick was much more precise when placing the objects . At times while using this control option my fingers would come to rest on the back panel which meant puzzle pieces were being moved by two sources.
When it comes to placing pieces the placement seems off sometimes. When in puzzle mode you’re presented with an area in which a piece can be placed. If you try to put it in an area already occupied by another piece the cursor will be red, but in a free area it will be white. On one puzzle I remember putting a piece in a certain position, unfreezing time, and seeing it move to the right of where the game stated I could place it, which in turn did not let me get the solution as I was didn’t have enough tokens. It happened quite a few times and it was one of the instances where I swore a lot and turned off my Vita.
The solutions themselves range from pretty simple to challenging but fun, and then up to a point where the solution seems convoluted. Each level has a time in which you can try to beat usually ranging between the one and two minute marks, but there were moments where I’d spend at least 20 minutes working out a solution because there just wasn’t even a single, minuscule clue. You will spend ages on some puzzles and you fail over and over as your solutions turn out to be wrong.
Trying to complete levels quickly is hampered by how slow to react Ethan can be sometimes, and he is a slow moving character. His movement hinders the most basic of moves from jumping to different platforms, which can be missed because controlling Ethan in the air can be laborious, and even running from moving traps can be annoying. There was one level where on occasion Ethan would take ages to start running by which time he was pretty much dead. It’s alright if you’re playing normally but sometimes I tried to go for the speed runs and was just hindered by slow movement and not great jumping.
One of my favourite parts of the game didn’t even have anything to do with platforming or solving puzzles, but instead turned the game into a side scrolling shoot-em-up where Ethan flies a vehicle, shooting away traps and navigating passages. These moments were a lot more fun than some of the puzzle levels, and if the whole game was like this I think it would have been absolutely brilliant.
Seaven Studios has some good ideas up its sleeves and Ethan Meteor Hunter shows moments of brilliance. However, it is let down by clunky movements and puzzles that don’t always offer a challenging but fair game.
I understand that a puzzle game should get you to think, but when a puzzle can make you so frustrated that you have to turn off your console because you might break it otherwise means a game has gone from being fun to being a burden. It wasn’t for me but the decision to buy solely rests on if you like a game where you’re not given a single hint on how to move forward, or if you want something you can have a bit of fun with. If it’s the former, then it’s for you, if not then you may want to wait for something else.