Thanks to Sometimes You for the review code
System: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Release Date: 03/30/2018
Going for a visual style similar to the one seem in Thomas Was Alone, (outright stated by the developers in this game’s eShop description as the inspiration) Alteric focuses on a minimalistic presentation, which can work out fine as Thomas proved. Unfortunately, this game somehow manages to mess up on making an appealing presentation, as while the levels do look cool at first glance, when the world-shifting mechanic comes into play that’s when things get pretty bad.
You see, while you can shift between two worlds at the tap of a button to change the level and cause some obstacles and platforms to move around, there’s rarely any visual indication on where these obstacles are in the other world, which often leads to dumb moments where you simply shift the world only to find that you are on a death spike, abruptly killing you without any warning. Oddly enough, there was one level in Chapter 3 where the platforms did have a white outline to indicate where they would be in the other world, which makes me wonder why they didn’t just do that for the entire game to make it a lot more fair.
There’s also a few things to make note of with the sound design, as it’s just simply awful. While some of the random music tracks that play whenever you start a level can be decent at best, more often than not you’ll be stuck with an incredibly repetitive loop that can be really grating on the ears until it finally cuts off and brings out another, equally repetitive track. The sound effects aren’t much better, mainly because for every single jump your little block guy makes, he gives an incredibly annoying grunt sound effect that made me turn off the sound effects in the options a few times.
Split into three chapters consisting of ten levels each, Alteric has you control a white cube and guide it to a gate of light at the end of each of the stages, all while avoiding any obstacles and hazards that can kill you in one hit. Not long into the game, you’re introduced to the main gimmick of the levels, which has you go into an alternate dimension with the press of the Y button. This dimension swap changes the location of platforms and some objects, similar to Runbow and Color Symphony 2, but it also causes a lot of the aforementioned cheap deaths mentioned in the presentation section.
Each chapter ends with a boss fight, where you need to hit weak spots on the boss’s head in order to destroy it, but these are very simplistic, and they also suffer from another flaw Alertic has, with pretty bad respawn mechanics. You see, while most puzzle platformers reset the entire level upon death for the sake of keeping the patterns of said levels consistent with every retry, Alteric’s levels keep on going even after death. This means that in the case of the boss battles, if a boss kills you and stays on the area where you respawn, rather than the boss going back to the spot he was at the beginning of the fight, he’ll just stay there and kill you as soon as you spawn until he decides to jump out of the way. Such problems persist throughout the entire game, with some level hazards killing you on the spot as a result, or in the case of one particular stage, it flat out makes it seemingly impossible.
This stage in question takes place in Chapter 2, and is known as The Chase. Here, you must outrun an incoming wave of angry block-thingies that want you dead, while avoiding some rotating spike blades that you must carefully time jumps around in order to dodge them. Problem is, the wave of angry blocks are a bit too fast, and by default you can dodge those blades. Problem is that if you die, those blades will continue operating in their set pattern, meaning that when the wave of blocks return and the chase begins again, they’ll be off the sync they would be if you loaded up the level from the menu. This means that in most of those situations, the level is absolutely unbeatable due to the sync problem, and hitting the restart button from the pause menu only restarts your position, not the position of anyone else, just as if you died.
In fact, the only way I could find out how to beat that level was to take advantage of an exploit, where I jumped down to trigger the wave of blocks, only to use the double jump to get back onto the starting platform, thus making me go behind the wave of blocks and thus not having to worry about going through the level to avoid those blades. Considering how this was the only way I found out how to beat the stage without restarting the level from the main menu over and over again, this was just more evidence of a poorly balanced game, especially since the next few levels are a lot easier in comparison, introducing a new stage gimmick that reverses the gravity. Things go back to being clunky yet beatable with enough trial and error (although some of the stages can get quite long, and despite introducing a checkpoint system early on, it’s rarely used in levels that actually need it, and more often used in levels that don’t. Alas, my journey ended at Stage 24, so close to the end when a stage with nothing but the aforementioned cheap hazards caused by the plane switching, along with the long length of the level halted my progress despite all my efforts to surpass it.
In conclusion, Alteric is an absolutely clunky mess. While it could have been a short, fun and challenging platformer that would have been a decent way to kill time and challenge the player, so many faults are apparent in the game that seem like they could have easily been fixed, but left as things that aren’t fixed for the sake of annoying the player through cheap difficulty and faulty mechanics. One level will be simple and easy to clear, requiring little thought, and then the next may be something akin to the dreaded Chase level where the only reliable way of getting past it is by using an exploit or dumb luck. Combine that with stupid respawn mechanics and terrible sound design, and you have a game that gets ruined by a desire to make it challenging for sake of being ultra hard, but without any knowledge on how to actually create a fair challenge that gradually increases and rewards the player for having a-ha moments! except to pad out the length. For $5, there are a lot better games to enjoy with, both for relaxing and hardcore experiences that have way more balance. I give Alteric a 4 out of 10, and advise that you pass on this game for better alternatives.