“You are not a hero, You will not save the world, you may even not save yourself.”
As a self-described retro gamer it’s no secret that I always tend to look for new games that borrow from their retro heritage so when asked if I wanted to review a new platformer I instantly jumped at the chance.
Reading through the press release, developer Ludovic Espérou says, “Ecotone is not an ‘easy’ platformer – there is a lot of ‘old school’ feeling in it – people say it’s ‘Mario meets World of Goo and Limbo’.”
Mario meets World of Goo and Limbo you say!? I’m listening…
“…the story is very open, so everyone may understand something unique. However, there is a real story behind Ecotone that may require a bit of research to find out what it is. We wanted a particular atmosphere, so people playing the game think ‘that’s cute… but this music tells me something is not right’.”
After reading the rest I set out on a “quest to travel through an ever-changing world, discovering your own identity as you discover the perils that fill the world in which you find yourself.”
The game starts off and it’s exactly as described by Ludovic; it’s cute to look at but the music does suggest something more sinister about it. This is backed up by the fact each level starts with a phrase that according to the creators is designed to give you a clue to your own identity and what lies in store for you. For example, one starts with “I just want to go” and it’s only when you reach what seems like the end of the level that it adds the word “back” to that phrase, perhaps indicating you need to return to the start to finish. An interesting twist that does give you an idea for the most part as to how you should approach the level.
There are three worlds to explore, each containing 15 levels and each level consists of 3 orbs that our intrepid character must collect in order to complete it. The first couple of levels are easy enough, teaching you the mechanics of pushing obstacles out the way, running and of course the vital skill of any platformer, jumping. It’s about here at jumping where the Mario likeness described above ends. I can however see the Limbo and World of Goo resemblances but I started to feel like Ecotone may be a bit derivative of other games rather than being the “revolutionary platformer” it was promised to be.
After a few more levels I was feeling a little underwhelmed and got stuck on a particular one where I knew exactly what I had to do but kept messing up at the same point each time. Clearly my platforming skills were being put to the test but I couldn’t accept that and I must confess to rage quitting after about the 7th attempt.
In the interest of fairness though I went back and gave the game another crack and straight away on the first time of trying it again I nailed it. Whilst each level at first glance may seem easy or obvious there are enough changes to mechanics to mean you actually have to make you think before you leap into it. For example things like your controls being reversed or the addition of another character who mirrors your moves so before running off you have to make sure he’s not near the edge may not be totally obvious to begin with.
I quickly learned that here is a game that isn’t designed to be done as a speed run on the first time of trying each level and as frustrating as some of them can be there was some satisfaction to be had in finishing each one. Having said that though, I do think Ecotone would perhaps have more success as a mobile device game; something you can pick up and play as and when you have a few minutes on the train rather than something you’d want to sit at your computer to play for hours on end.
“Ecotone” by Sundae Factory is available from the 6th May on Steam for £5.99.