“It is said that your life flashes before your eyes just before you die. That is true, it’s called Life.” – Terry Pratchett
Altero is an atmospheric puzzle platformer in which players take on the role of Adi, the spirit of a young boy trapped in a voodoo doll. Only by sacrificing himself can he progress through the Forest of Sorrow and find peace.
Developer: Electronic Motion Games
Released: 17th October 2022
Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux
Available on: Steam
This game is being reviewed as part of the Indie Game Collective (IGC) showcase.
NOTE: This game’s narrative deals with sensitive subjects that some people might find distressing.
Whilst Altero features some fairly standard puzzle platformer conundrums the additional mechanics that mean death is often the right way forward, provide something truly unique. There are revival points and Adi can sometimes choose to die to reach them, circumventing obstacles. Additionally, some revival points will create a ghost that repeats the player’s previous actions before death meaning revived Adi can team up with his past self to solve the puzzles. This often means spending time standing on buttons or waiting around to make sure the revived version will have enough time to do things. This, when teamed with the character’s unhurried movement pace mean the gameplay feels a bit slow-paced and sluggish.
There are lost souls that need to be rescued on the way, these are locked behind puzzles of varying difficulty and some really do pose a challenge. There is a general difficulty curve to the gameplay and things definitely get trickier as the player progresses through the Forest of Sorrows. It is possible, but not preferable, to skip the puzzles pertaining to the lost souls if needed. Manual save points can be found regularly throughout the game, with multiple opportunities to save per chapter.
Altero’s narrative centres on Adi and is delivered primarily through narrative cutscenes. These consists of a series of images and narration and are triggered when the player finds a book in the game. Whilst the artwork is stunning, the narration is lacklustre and monotone and feels somehow detached from the seriousness of the events being recounted. The story is quite heavy and the lack of content warning on the game’s store page may mean some players are caught unaware by the allusions to alcoholism and domestic abuse. Unfortunately, the narrative elements seem somewhat shoehorned into an experience in which they were not really needed.
The detailed cartoon artwork in the bulk of the game is hand-drawn and moody, in dark colour palettes with pops of muted colour and vibrant lighting whilst the narrative cutscenes have a more painterly style. The overall aesthetic is beautifully eerie and really fits the themes of the game.
Altero’s soundtrack is a true highlight of the experience and very impactful. The music is highly atmospheric with thumping heartbeats, evocative strings, zen-like droning and mystical twinkling used in a selection of well-implemented tracks. Likewise, the sound effects are very immersive, such as water running and owls hooting in the Forest of Sorrow.
Overall, Altero is a bit of a mixed bag, the artwork and soundtrack are both stunning and the mechanics are unique and interesting and there are some very satisfying puzzles. However, the gameplay itself feels rather slow paced and the narrative elements feel out of place. The game will take up to ten hours to complete and comes at a reasonable price for the playtime. I’d recommend this title to patient puzzle platformer fans that are looking for something a bit different.
If you enjoy puzzle platformers you may also like the following reviews:
Arise: A Simple Story – A Time Manipulation Puzzle-Platformer with Heart! – Letters: A Written Adventure – A New Word Puzzle about Friendship! – One Hand Clapping: Sing Your Way Through this Brand New Adventure!