During the rise of independently made video games, platformers were among the first to be produced. Super Meat Boy and Limbo instantly come to mind. However, few have stood the test of time or survived long enough to rise up the Steam charts only to be engulfed into the Elephant Graveyard of shovelware.
Alteric originally released way back in July of 2016, and it seems the developers have fought hard for it not to slip through the tracks. It is now available on every console, including the Playstation Vita. Having recently been released on the Nintendo Switch, the developers are likely hoping to join the ranks of indie devs that have seen great success on its eShop. So not only must they rise to the top of the charts in one digital store, they now have four platforms to do so—or fall through the cracks. I had the opportunity to review Alteric, and to see how far it might go.
For its release on consoles, Alteric has been rated E for Everyone for Mild Fantasy Violence by the ESRB. Due to its minimal aesthetic, any possibility of extreme violence is limited. Players take control of a white block that must travel through difficult levels and obstacles. Deadly obstacles come in the form of razors, lethal high powered lasers, including spikes that sit along the floor, ceiling and walls. If the player character is hit by one of these, there is no blood or gore; the character is defeated and will respawn at the beginning of the stage or at a checkpoint.
Alteric is a short game to burn through. With only three chapters and 30 levels, this indie title can be taken down in about three hours. Will you enjoy those three hours? Maybe not. Not every video game is fun or enjoyable in a sense. Like Dark Souls, some of them beg to be conquered. They aim to punish and challenge until you master them and “git gud.” Alteric happens to be one of those, but I don’t think it quite deserves to stand among the greatest in its genre.
Alteric takes a minimalist approach similar to games like N++ and Thomas Was Alone. In fact, the developers have been unashamed to say that they borrowed from the latter. Players literally take control of a square shaped character and must avoid obstacles to survive and get through each stage. These obstacles are either circular razors, high powered lasers, and spikes. The problem is that games like this should have a presentation and world that draw me in. Alteric didn’t look appealing when watching the trailers, and my impression of it didn’t change when I got my hands on it.
A few mechanics have been integrated into the gameplay, but yet again, they aren’t anything we haven’t seen before. The most important is the ability to alternate between two worlds as you progress through the stage. This has been done before in games like Outland, Guacamelee, and much more. The other is an anti-gravity mechanic, which had me rethink how i looked at the solution to some of the stages. The anti-grav mechanic is one I have seen much less than the alternating dimensions, but both are presented creativity and make every stage unique in its own way.
The biggest area I struggle with is the difficulty. Alteric is meant to be a challenging game and does well to create some longevity to compensate for how short it is. Many of my deaths were due to my own stupidity and my efforts to rush through a level, but the physics worked against me at times. I found myself sliding or tumbling off a ledge or platform because of what I thought was a solid landing.
Some levels also took such precision and timing that I was driven to the point of frustration. I feel like it falls more on the punishing side of the scale rather than the challenging side. It is very possible that playing Celeste has spoiled me when it comes to challenge. Alteric has players starting from the beginning on most levels rather than respawning the player in the room or checkpoint where the obstacle is located.
Though the physics did get me killed, I can appreciate how they were utilized in the platforming. The box would tumble on and off ledges when moving around the stages as one would in real life. On multiple occasions the box physics did save my life; I was able make it through a few jumps and obstacles that I otherwise would have failed miserably at. Overall,the controls were satisfyingly responsive and didn’t kill my hands when using a Joycon and most of my success was thanks to the nifty double jump.
A boss awaits the player at the end of each chapter, and this is the easiest time you’ll have in Alteric. Each is a bigger shape with and angry face on it. The goal is to hit the switches that can be found on their sides, and the interdimensional shifting also plays a part in finding the ones you don’t see right away. The best part about these boss fights is that you won’t have to start from the beginning to defeat them. You’ll respawn right away if you are hit, and will be ready to dodge or attack them right away after death. These boss fights are fun and the end result is satisfying to watch them explode in epic defeat.
Lastly, Alteric has a solid atmospheric soundtrack. Single tracks are not tied to a given stage, they alternate throughout your playtime. These electronic tunes are meant to keep the player in focus and get “in the zone” in a way. It felt good when the music would flow with whatever I was doing in the game, but sadly my frustrations would take me out of the experience.
Alteric is not a poorly made game, I could see the love and quality that the developers have put into every aspect. I could feel the that there was some talent under the hood, but what I see on the outside feels very uninspired. It would be nice to see what the folks at goonswarm can do with some more original ideas. Due to its challenge, I can’t say that Alteric was an enjoyable experience for me. However, that may be the case for those who like to conquer their video games.
Review code generously provided by Sometimes You
The Bottom Line
Alteric feels like a billion other indie games out there, and wants to punish players more than challenge them. Luckily, the physics do make the platforming feel satisfying, and thee gam can be completed in a couple hours. Still, there are many other video games that deserve your time.