In this review, we check out another potential indie darling that is heavily influenced by games from an older time while still hoping to craft something unique within itself to stand out against the steep competition. We’ll see if Eternum EX does enough to craft a great gameplay experience or whether you should skip this title and pick something else up. Let’s dive in!
Release date: October 25th, 2018
Approximate size: 149 MB
Genre: Arcade, Action, Adventure
Developed by: Radin Games, Flynn’s Arcade
Published by: Zerouno Games
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch; also available on PC.
Eternum EX tells a rather simple tale, albeit a humorous one when you actually think about the premise. You take on the role of Sir Arthur, an old man with nothing left to live for. Having lost it all, and with nothing to lose, he sets off to the kingdom of Samarnath in hopes of collecting treasure, experiencing adventure, and finding the five magical orbs that together will grant him eternal youth. It’s, essentially, a tale of boredom and vanity. You weren’t called to save the world, you didn’t stumble into a conflict, and you didn’t set off events due to careless or selfishness. Instead, Arthur decided to head to this evil kingdom to get himself glory, riches, and to be forever young. I love that about this game, its decision to tell a different type of tale. I wish more was done to tell this story but, honestly, I was just happy a plot was included since games seem to be taking a step away from that. Don’t expect an emotional tale on par with something like, say, Uncharted but expect a tongue and cheek plot to simply explain why you’re doing what you’re doing and how you ended up there.
Eternum EX has two game modes to enjoy. There are minor differences between them, but they are Home Mode and Arcade Mode. Home Mode is the traditional mode where you’re given three lives, with your progress saved after each world, and it’s probably where you’ll spend most of your time. You’ll be placed in a level that’ll take up your screen with various platforms and enemies to deal with. Your goal is to go around this level and collect all the chests to unlock a portal that’ll take you to the next stage. Pretty straightforward but the enemies make this more difficult than it otherwise would be. The creatures designed to give you issues come in various forms with their own means of attacks and with your limited abilities, you’ll want to be on the constant move as you attack. The game does well in its introduction of new enemies and with pairings to cause you to come up with mental strategies. It brings you that old classic gameplay dilemma on which enemy to deal with first and with their varied skills, thinking a couple of steps ahead is a necessity. I mentioned your limited abilities, well, that’s by design. As Sir Arthur, you have a staff as your only means of attacks with the occasional fireball at your disposal. It’s all balanced well as one hit means the end of you and of your enemies, couple this with some chests that have you required to hit them from underneath to unlock and the levels having a time in which you must complete it by and you have a nice, challenging experience. This is the general gameplay for four out of the five levels, with the fifth of that world having you platform up to make your way to the boss.
Bosses are a chaotic joy and the true highlight of the gameplay experience. It’s very old school in both design and presentation as you bounce around the small stage avoiding projectiles and other enemies, while also planning and strategizing on how to hit without being hit. They all offer their own problems and you’ll have your work cut out on how to defeat them, making them the perfect cap to that world. It’s truly satisfying to overcome the four levels of platforming and enemy fighting to get to that final stretch in the fifth and climb up to your most difficult foe up to that point. Then, once you defeat them, it’s satisfying to claim and earn that victory without any handicaps or handholding. Overall, the game is a blast to play through but its very light on actual gameplay. I know it’s by design that you are limited on how you attack but it would have been nice to see and do something new or to have something presented to change up the gameplay, even if only briefly at times. There is also not much content available. The other game mode, Arcade, is the same as Home Mode except you have unlimited lives with the sacrifice of not being able to save your progress. I know the purpose of this mode, and it’s great that it’s included, but that could have been something implemented in Home Mode that could be toggled between and Arcade Mode could have been another type of game mode. For example, a boss rush mode or the present levels remixed or out of order. Something. Thankfully, the game really is fun, and you could lose yourself in it. Especially at this price point.
When it comes to the game’s visuals, a strong wave of nostalgia will hit and overtake you. It’s apparent right from the beginning what has inspired the game’s art style and graphics. Those who love retro games and Indies will feel right at home here. It comes across as a nice call back to classic Castlevania games and being a huge fan of those games, I was instantly taken in and fell in love with it all. With that said, let’s start with the enemy designs. Creepy, grotesque creatures make up the bulk of the enemies you will encounter, and hopefully, defeat, and they range from psychotic bats to physically revolting pig like creatures. You also have weird abominations in the forms of plant like entities with teeth that fly at you and green zombie influenced ex-wives. All of them have been crafted spectacularly and I can only imagine that the team had a ton of fun without creative restraints. The bosses themselves are also pretty great with the same beautiful ugliness the rest of the enemies have but with a more imposing and menacing influence. Even all the animations are call backs to an older era and it all fits in perfectly well. There were no pop ups or graphical issues of any kind and the game ran without issue.
Sir Arthur, the title character you play as, comes across as an old man with the agility of someone half his age. His monk like design fits him nicely and the world perfectly and the more subdued design suits him well when compared to the enemies throughout the levels. Speaking on the levels, the developers did a lot more than I thought they would with all the different places you go to. The over world map is absolutely gorgeous and influences each of the levels. For the most part, they can feel same-y but those changes from one locale to the next can prevent the monotony that can plague games like these. Eternum EX does a good job of preventing players of feeling like they’ve revisited the same location numerous times. These places come in the form of dark cobblestone dungeon like areas, green grassy locations, and fiery pits inspired by the underworld. Overall, Eternum EX is a great looking game that stands on its own, visually, and still calls back to the wonderful era many grew up on.
The audio choices for this game is absolutely fantastic and further brings to mind the era it’s inspired by. You could listen to game audio from a game from the NES/SNES era with your eyes closed and the one from this game and you’d be pretty hard pressed to be able to tell which belongs to which. It’s that good. It also suits the game tremendously and really adds another layer of addiction to the package. You have spooky tones that captivate you during certain sections and others have upbeat music that pulls you deeper into the gameplay. The audio choices are great and each selection fits perfectly well with what is happening on screen, it never detours or distracts from the gameplay but, instead, enhances it. That’s a sign of good design. All of the other sound effects fit their accompanying visuals and there really are no complaints in this section. Well, you may get the music stuck in your head as you continue throughout your day.
Eternum EX is a really fun and pretty great game. The gameplay is limited in terms of what you can do, the game can be pretty short, and the lack of content is all disappointing but everything that is here is done well. Your abilities versus those of the enemies are balanced well and the platforming to manoeuvre around them and reach the chests is implemented well. The added layer of stress and tension as time dwindles down is a nice layer of challenge that motivated rather than detract from the experience. The game really shines in art and sound design. The musical melodies that play throughout the game are great tunes that take place in your head, taking residence longer than you’ll expect, and help tie everything together in its goal of calling back to nostalgia while crafting its own path.
Overall, the game is good, and the price is great, as a package it’s excellent. I truly had fun playing this game and that’s what’s most important in a game. If you want a nice indie game to play on the go, definitely give this one a check.