ETHEREAL Review: A Meditation Session Disguised as a Game

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Calm your nerves and stimulate your brain with this pleasant experience called ETHEREAL.Colorful visuals, calming audio, interesting puzzle solving and mysterious story that unfolds as you play. A “Humble Original” indie game made by the very competent people at Nonsense Arts, set to release any day now. The studio has received many awards over the last few years so it’s no wonder that they did such a good job with ETHEREAL. They are also nominated for Excellence in Audio at the IGF (Independent Games Festival).

Awards ETHEREAL

Indie done right!

In ETHEREAL you play as a little block/circle/blob thing and you traverse the 2D world by moving left and right. That is unless you are passing through a wall. You can only move up and down walls and they can not be more than one block long. This means that if there is a wall to your left or right, you can’t go that way. ETHEREAL starts by throwing very simple puzzles at you. “Get to the two green triangles.” or “Find a way to get to that place.”. No one actually tells you what to do in any point. It just shows you your goal and you are naturally drawn to it.

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The game ramps up in difficulty when it starts presenting new ways to traverse the levels. For instance arrows that shoot you in the direction that they point or spheres that rotate the entire world ninety degrees. These mechanics are presented in a very intuitive way and never seem too overwhelming or hard to understand. As new ways to move through the levels become available, the puzzles become more and more complex and interesting.

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The look and feel of the world

The art style is simple but in my opinion perfect for the indie title. It uses simple shapes and vivid colors to present a world full of life. This also makes for a jarring contrast when the color vanishes and all you are left with are shades of gray, which happens in ETHEREAL on a few occasions. The music and sound effects probably contribute in making the game feel alive more than the art or the gameplay. Every motion and every action are complemented perfectly by the gentle sound that give every part of each level some character.

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My opinion

ETHEREAL is a wonderful game that should be coming out any day now and deserves every bit of attention it gets. Playing this game felt like I was meditating. It calms you down and makes you tackle interesting and stimulating challenges. Make sure to check out the game’s Steam page here and decide if this sounds like something you would like to get once it comes out.

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