I’m beginning to feel like a broken record when I constantly keep pointing out that 2D platformers are ten a penny, but it’s relevant nonetheless. These titles flood just about any gaming storefront, coming in a wide range of different flavors. Alteric is no exception, but much like Tiles, despite its generous price tag, the execution is just too basic. There’s a light story thrown into the mix, which in all honesty, feels about as necessary as an ejection seat in a helicopter. In fact, I had the scrape the bulk of the story from the Xbox Store, and even then I had trouble trying to digest the plot’s pillar. In any case, and much like any given platformer, the meat of the matter rests with the gameplay. Sadly, there’s just not enough meat here.
The game begins with a minimalistic tutorial, teaching you the very basics of commands as you go about your business. The aim of the game is to make it from point A to point B, dodging a range of environmental hazards along the way. Take a hit, and you’re sent straight back to the starting point to give it another run. It really couldn’t be any simpler if it tried. Though, to suggest that you’re not getting your money’s worth would be a lie. The price tag is arguably the most alluring aspect of the game, especially for those of you that enjoy chasing easy achievements. If, however, you’re here for a compelling platformer that sits inline with Super Meat Boy, you’re going to be sorely disappointed.
Alteric doesn’t even come close to that comparison title. Instead you’re going to be traversing a collection of dull environments, spread across a selection of generic-designed levels. That, and Alteric is a small game. This can easily be nuked in a matter of hours, and less than that if you’re quite tuned into the formula. The core gameplay loop remains the same throughout. Start here, and get there. Some interesting mechanics make an appearance from time to time, such as having the ability to change worlds, or more specifically, change realms. This feature is introduced pretty early into the game, leading you to believe that there’s going to be some level of innovation to soak up throughout.
Unfortunately, the few mechanics that are thrown into the mix don’t quite prove to be as pivotal as expected. Changing worlds, for example, simply sees you pressing a button to phase between realms. This allows your playable cube to access specific platforms that may not be in the alternate realm, granting you access to those hard-to-reach areas in the process. It’s a very straightforward mechanic, but admittedly, one that becomes more complex as you get deeper into the experience. There’s a few other notable mechanics, but by and large, everything that Alteric attempts to achieve has often been done better a thousands times elsewhere.
Reaching the end of each world will present you with a boss battle, but again these tend to remain overly simplistic in regards to both design and execution. During these encounters, you’re typically required to bounce from platform to platform, whilst targeting a few panels that are located on the surface of the enemy. There’s no attack feature in place, in fact all you need to do is dodge its attacks and push against these panels to dish out some damage. It doesn’t help matters that each of these encounters are almost identical to one another, which is a shame, given how short the game length is. Still, I cant say that I wasn’t expecting to witness this design choice from the get-go.
Drawing back to my earlier point about nuking this game in a matter of hours, I do want to point out that that’s quite an ambitious estimation. You see, Alteric’s content may well only last that amount of time on a fluid run, and much less than that if you can speed run the game. However, Alteric does offer some pace breaking levels that feel nearly impossible to overcome. Several times did I stumble across a level that become that frustrating, I was encouraged to smash my pad against the television. Platformer games should be fun, even at their most difficult point, but Alteric often exchanges fun for anger, due to its poor level structure. Mercifully this sort of barrier is few and far between, but something I wanted to make a note about nevertheless.
Again, it’s fair to describe this game as a pacifier, rather than something that you will actively embrace for tens of hours on end. I don’t want to completely drag this game to the depths of oblivion, because Alteric does “play” well, but it just doesn’t maintain any volume of excitement after the initial phases of the game. Speaking of its visuals, there’s not a lot going on here. The background for each world lacks detail, more often than not relaying some dull color with a few backdrops in place to break up the scheme. The foreground almost entirely consists of pitch-black structures that will either serve as a platform, or one of the many obstacles that lay in your immediate path.
The soundtrack is pretty hit and miss too, but unlike many of the other aspects of this game, this never truly outstays its welcome. It’s just there. Tiles, a 2D puzzle game that released a number of weeks back, suffers from a similar structure. The concept is well designed, but the gameplay loop never really evolves. This leaves you with a very underwhelming experience in the long-run, one that doesn’t withdraw any notion to re-run it. It may well look good, and it may well play smoothly, but when all is said and done, there’s a deep catalog of platformer games already available that surpass Alteric in every way distinguishable. Make of that what you will.
Alteric, despite its very generous price tag, fails to standout in an already overcrowded genre. The visuals are bland, the core gameplay loop becomes tedious, and the lack of evolving mechanics ultimately drags this experience down. Indeed, it may play well, but in the face of its competition, Alteric just doesn’t tick the boxes it needs to.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.