Alteric review for PS Vita, PS4

Platform: PS Vita
Also On: PS4, PC
Publisher: Sometimes You
Developer: goonswarm
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

One of my all-time favourite games is Thomas Was Alone. You wouldn’t think that a puzzle platformer where all the characters were shapes would make for an affecting, emotional experience, but it constantly proved such a thing was capable. Between platforming that was just difficult enough to be fun, and voiceover narration that, against all odds, made you feel for the different shapes, pretty much everything about that game wowed me.

Alteric is kind of Thomas Was Alone’s mirror image: it does some of the same things (i.e. you’re playing as a square, navigating a series of platforms), but it does so in a way that is almost impossible to love.

Unless you like dying, that is. Because Alteric features a crapload of that. It’s straight out of the “harder=better” school of platformers, which means it never misses an opportunity to kill you dozens and dozens of times in every one of its fairly short levels.

While I can’t say that it’s my favourite genre, I can say that there are some ultra-difficult platformers I like, and the reasons I like them are almost entirely absent here. I don’t mind if a game is incredibly hard as long as it also seems fair, and Alteric never seems fair. Its save points are a distributed a little too oddly. It demands that you make blind jumps into the unknown. And, worst of all, its controls are horrible.

I’m going to break that last point out, since it bears diving into a little more deeply. It’s the reason that Alteric is such a flawed, unenjoyable game. It demands precision of you, but the jumps are a little too floaty. You never come to a full stop right away. Several times, I’d come to the end of a particularly difficult section, only to die because I skidded a millimetre upon landing. In a game that’s as demanding as this, there shouldn’t be any room for imprecise controls, but that’s what Alteric gives you.

It also gives you a square that makes a little gasping sound every time you jump. Contrasted with the playful, pleasant narration that accompanied Thomas Was Alone, it just comes off as obnoxious.

But really, that’s just a minor annoyance that pales in comparison to the fact that Alteric is demanding without balancing its demands with a sense of fairness. It’d be easy to overlook some annoying gasping if the game was good otherwise, but seeing as Alteric isn’t, it’s the grating cherry on top of an unfair sundae.

Sometimes You provided us with an Alteric PS Vita code for review purposes.

Grade: D+