It’s pretty obvious from the get go that Alteric is influenced by other “hardcore” platformers out there such as Super Meat Boy. I would even say this is a combination of Super Meat Boy and Thomas Was Alone but without being quite so hardcore and without the drama. Respectively.
It’s not a bad game by any means but more a like a lite version of what we’re used to seeing. There are a lot of aspects that could be a negative for this game. The minimalistic graphics, short run time, no story, and loose mechanics lend to a final product that falls a bit short of being a great game. This is, however, made up for by the fittingly small price tag and an actual good time.
Jump, Switch Worlds, and Don’t Die
Like many platformers before it, Alteric has you jumping on platforms and avoiding obstacles. One hit kills are staple here as well. An interesting mechanic that changes this concept is the ability to “switch” worlds with the press of a button. When you switch worlds it can make platforms disappear and reappear depending on what “world” you’re in. It’s very similar to the mechanic in Guacamelee in that it makes each level a puzzle of sorts. Although Guacamelee does it to a much greater effect.
On face value this could make for an interesting mechanic in a platformer and sometimes it works well. However it can end up creating frustration instead. In a good platformer difficulty is a given and you accept the fact that you died because you messed up. The more you play the more you learn and the better you get until you succeed. It’s based on skill.
While Alteric gets very close to this concept, the world switching gets to be almost unfair since it’s difficult to tell where platforms are until you switch worlds. It takes a leap of faith at times and you learn more by trial and error than anything. It’s not a game killer but there are times when dying felt like it wasn’t my fault (ya, we’ve all heard that before but in this case it's true).
Look Ma! I’m Upside Down!
With that said, the switching mechanic make for some interesting level layouts. Combine that with other mechanics such as a gravity button which switches gravity causing your square to fall to the ceiling and vice versa. Add in obstacles such as saw blades, lasers, and a horde of something or other, and you have a combination that, minus a few snags, is a fun challenge.
Slide to Your Death
One other issue is with the controls themselves. Controlling your little white square is a bit slippery. Just a slight push of the stick can send your square flying across the platform. In a game where you have to jump (and land) in between things, having slippery controls can be detrimental. Again, like the world switching mechanic, the controls aren’t perfect but they don’t completely ruin the game.
There were times I died and it was because I didn’t land in just the right spot or adjust my landing just right because of the slipperiness. Like a good platforming game this game gets very difficult. But at times Alteric feels a bit cheap.
Thomas Was Alone Lite
If you played the indie game Thomas Was Alone from 2013, you’ll see a resemblance right away. The design is very minimal with just a few colors and clean edges. You play as white square with nifty little particle effects (that also makes a coughing noise when you jump. That's odd). Most of the platforming is done on black platforms while the background has a variety of colors that also change when you change the world.
Everything looks pretty good. For the most part it’s pretty obvious what obstacles are and where they are. The only issue here is that some obstacles are also the same color as the platforms which can make things a little more difficult.
For example on one level I was supposed to jump on a platform that was rhombus shaped (like a sideways diamond) and had a saw blade running around the edge. That was all fine and dandy except that when the blade went around the corner of the platform it also cut through the floor and hit me. If the blade wasn’t black just like the platform I would have known to avoid that.
A Little Disclaimer
It probably looks like I’ve spent this entire review talking down about this game. While that’s partially true, it doesn’t mean that the game is bad. As far as difficult platformers go, Alteric is decent. It has it’s short comings and it’s not perfect by any means. But once you get the hang of the controls and figure out levels by dying a ton (cheap kills or otherwise) it’s a nice little challenge and is definitely worth the 5 dollar price tag.
Alteric probably is going to fall by the wayside when it’s all said and done. Which is a bit unfortunate. It has potential and if you give it a chance it’s a good way to kill a few hours with a challenging platformer if you’re into that kind of thing. There are issues with the controls and some of the level design could use improvement. But if you’re willing to work through all that you’ll find a nice little challenging game that is surprisingly fun. Even if it can be fairly frustrating at times.