Alteric is a platform game that has been marketed with the supposed difficulty of the game at the forefront of its press release. Referred to as Thomas Was Alone meets Dark Souls, I approached this with a cautiously optimistic outlook. On the one hand I am a big fan of 2d platform games, especially those that use the 8bit pixel art style that was common place back in the 80’s, however I also have a somewhat limited amount of patience when it comes to playing anything that has a ‘harder equals better’ approach to its difficulty.
To my initial surprise I found myself pretty hooked on Alteric. The story is pretty simple; you play as a man who has died, however your soul is trapped between worlds so you must work your way through 30 increasingly difficult levels. For some reason that escapes me you play the entirety of Alteric as a white square that has the ability to travel between worlds with the press of a button. Changing worlds opens up new possibilities on how to complete each level as hazards will appear/disappear depending on which world you are currently in. Later on you are introduced to new mechanics like the ability to reverse gravity and to clone yourself with the press of a button, but I felt that these detracted from the game if anything.
Visually Alteric looks good, the minimalist visuals won’t blow you away but what was on screen looked good enough and I never had issues with losing my character on the screen when there is a lot going on which tends to happen to me on some games that use a pixel art visual style. Comparisons to Thomas Was Alone are going to be rather common, and if you are an avid explorer you can find Thomas hiding on one of the later levels which I thought was a nice touch. The soundtrack was great, with a varied track list that was surprisingly good, however one thing I quickly took issue with was the annoying grunt noise that occurs every single time that you jump. Fortunately you are able to adjust this in the options by turning down all sound effects, but I am not quite sure how this wasn’t picked up in playtesting.
Any platform game that prides itself on its difficulty level needs to make sure that it is still fair, and this unfortunately is where Alteric really falters. When you jump you seem to slide whenever you land which makes things very difficult when you are trying to position yourself on a platform. There also seems to be a slight input delay at times which is extremely frustrating when you are trying to make pixel perfect jumps in quick succession. Couple that with some incredibly bad collision detection that causes player death when you could swear that you were nowhere near a hazed and you’ll be left pulling your hair out at times. Checkpoints are introduced as some of the later levels are longer and more intricate but these are placed poorly.
A prime example of this is Level 24, which is where I spent approximately half of my 4 hours of play time swearing, sweating and growing increasingly irate at the shockingly poor level design. Everything that is bad about Alteric is featured in this one level. You start off having to navigate a series of gravity changing switches while dodging spikes and making pixel perfect jumps which is bad enough but this part is barely 5% of the level. After this you’ll need to negotiate extremely tight areas filled with spikes and saw blades while using more gravity changers and swaps between worlds. If you are good enough to get past this you would think you’d be close to a checkpoint but unfortunately you are still nowhere near. You have to traverse a room filled with deadly lasers and make some insanely precise jumps before you finally reach a checkpoint around 90% of the way through level 24. Sometimes You have acknowledged this level is particularly unbalanced and a patch is due to be released however at the time of writing this is not available on Xbox One.
The faults also don’t end here either, another issue I had was that when you die the level itself doesn’t reset when you respawn, it instead carries on so you would sometimes die and reappear only to be instantly killed by an object upon reappearing. The final boss on level 30 is broken so you might find yourself hitting his 4 weakspots which should end the game, only to see him burst on fire and keep attacking you. This happened to me multiple times and has me scrambling around on Google trying to find a solution as I was unsure whether I was missing something from the fight or if the game is buggy (the latter of these is the correct statement). As I briefly mentioned at the top you get new abilities as you progress but none of them make Alteric better for having them. Cloning in particular was something I did not enjoy at all as it felt cumbersome to use and was introduced so late in to the game that it almost felt like an afterthought.