Steam Greenlight Spotlight: Ethan: Meteor Hunter
Ethan: Meteor Hunter is a 2.5D puzzle platformer being developed for Windows, Mac, and Linux. The titular Ethan is not your ordinary protagonist, however – he's a mouse that has been imbued with the power of telekinesis after touching meteorites following some unknown events. As Ethan, your quest is to travel across three different worlds (50 levels) in an attempt to recover all the pieces of the meteorite that hit you. Being a puzzle platformer, you'll have to use his telekinesis to move around objects to solve the puzzles and complete each level. Unlike the Wizard's telekinesis powers in Trine, moving objects is not done in real-time, but rather a paused state. This makes strategizing easier, but timing is still crucial and it introduces new challenges – you can jump off a crate for extra height, pause the game, move the crate to the next ledge, un-pause time, land on the crate, and then be able to make the next jump that you would not have been able to make if the crate wasn't in its new position. Once you see it in action – or try it yourself – it's a lot less confusing than I probably just made it seem.
While the physics-based challenges are certainly nice, my favorite part of Ethan is the art style. The game features 3D animated backgrounds, which not only give it that great 2.5D look we've come to love from games like the aforementioned Trine, but also really bring the levels to life. The first world seems to be some sort of lumber mill and the 3D backgrounds really help sell that. You'll have to traverse a myriad of traps from saw blades, crushers, flames, and even mouse traps – the latter really added a nice touch. The second world (seen in the video below) seems to be some sort of cave, featuring a lot of masonry, while the third world has not been unveiled.
Aside from the aforementioned traps, you may have also noticed electricity in the video above. While electricity can indeed kill you, it can also be used to power up generators that open doors and allow you to progress through the level. The movable blocks you can interact with through telekinesis also act differently to hazards – wood blocks burn, but do not conduct electricity, while metal blocks do not burn, but get electrified. There is no mention whether we will get introduced to a third type of block in the third world.
As much as I love what I've played and seen from Ethan thus far, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the rather poor keyboard/mouse implementation. In fact, you are warned from the start that the game plays better with a gamepad and that is certainly the control scheme the game was designed for. It's not that the game doesn't support keyboard/mouse, but rather that it goes out of its way to make using that scheme as frustrating as possible – all the in-game prompts list the gamepad command, including the "How to Play" section. The only thing that informs you of the keyboard/mouse controls is a text file included in the download of the demo. While most platformer fans probably own a gamepad, I still hope this is addressed in the full version. Even if a gamepad controls better, I sure hope developer Seaven Studio at least updates the in-game prompts when keyboard/mouse is selected (though right now, there isn't even an option that lets you choose a control scheme). When developers do not update prompts to fit the current controls (and bindings), that just screams laziness, in my opinion.
UPDATE: Olivier Penot, Producer & Co-founder of Seaven Studio got in touch with me to address my concerns with the Keyboard/Mouse controls. He assures me there is nothing to worry about: "As for the KB&M controls, we indeed didn't work enough for this alpha demo but be sure that the final game will support full KB remapping, tutorial buttons changed and specific How to Play for PC. We have PC-only players here and they want PC version to be better than the console one :)." So there you have it, my only negative should soon be squashed! Oh, and he also let me know that if you enter the Konami Code at the Start menu in the demo, you'll get a bonus level! If you don't know what the Konami Code, you're clearly too young – Google it. He and his studio are very open to feedback, so play the demo and let them know what you think!
Despite my disappointment with the handling of the controls, I still highly recommend checking out the playable alpha demo (142MB direct download link). Using keyboard/mouse actually works just fine, at least when I realized that I had to hold down "R" to restart at a checkpoint rather than just press it (it's actually a rather cool feature, as it prevents accidental restarts, but was definitely frustrating when I didn't know that and instead quit and started from scratch after jumping in an inescapable pit). Ethan is expected to be ready for release this Summer! As I mentioned earlier, it's being developed for Windows, Mac, and Linux, though the latter two versions won't come until next year. If you're a fan of 2.5D platformers, there is plenty to enjoy in Ethan: Meteor Hunter!