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Etherborn

Game review by
David Chapman, Common Sense Media
Etherborn Game Poster Image
Artistic adventure can be disorienting and repetitive.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

The game's plot is both simple and mysterious, as players follow a formless voice to discover the purpose of their existence. It's a surreal story that doesn't serve as much more than a reason to go through the motions of the platforming.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Players are literally incomplete shells, born into existence but missing something that would make them whole. The characters aren't good or evil, but rather they just exist for the purpose of finding each other to become something more.

Ease of Play

Controls are simple and straightforward. The difficulty comes in navigating the environment's twisted gravitational physics. Jumping or walking in the wrong place or direction can cause players to fall to a different section or out into the abyss.

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What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Etherborn is a platform puzzle game available for download on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Windows-based PCs. Players control an entity born into a strange world trying to find their way towards a disembodied voice. The game has easy controls, though there's a fair bit of challenge in navigating the environment's warped gravity. Outside of character mishaps, such as falling off the world by misjudging a jump or direction, the game's a non-violent, surreal experience, without any blood, language, or other content concerns.

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What's it about?

ETHERBORN is a platform puzzle game which, literally, turns the world upside down and in every other direction as well. You enter this world as a seemingly incomplete being, brought into existence with no understanding of what you are or what purpose you serve. From somewhere in the distance, a voice calls to you, reaching out and awaiting your arrival. Your first thoughts and impulses drive you to connect with this voice, hoping it can lead to a sense of wholeness and purpose. To reach your goal, you'll need to navigate through this strange and colorful world, a world in which things like the laws of gravity are little more than mere suggestions. You'll explore this world and traverse its hazards, seeking out orbs with the power to further alter the landscape and bring you that much close to the voice that beckons you. Will you be able to find your way to your mysterious caller? And if so, will it hold the answers you seek? 

Is it any good?

If there's ever a question about if video games can be considered art, this puzzler could be considered an answer. Etherborn is a visually stunning experience similar to walking inside a painting that's a surreal blend of Salvador Dali and M.C. Escher. It's a breathtaking and impossible world in which players must walk, run, and jump, following paths that shift gravity on a whim. It's a game where what's up one minute can easily pull you down the next. While it makes for an artistic wonderland, it's also more than a little disorienting. Because of the constant shifts in perspective, the directional controls are constantly shifting as well, meaning it can get frustratingly difficult to move around and to judge how to take certain jumps.

Another problem Etherborn faces is its overall lack of depth. While the world's visually appealing, there's still not a lot to it. As a result, it starts to feel repetitive very quickly. Once the novelty of wears off and after you get used to the controls, you can't help but feel like you're just going through the motions. Run here, jump there, wash, rinse, and repeat. Outside of chasing a disembodied voice, there's no real motivation to progress. In an ironic twist, the game's actually pretty short from start to finish. But after the boredom begins to sink in, the slow pacing makes it feel like completing the adventure takes much longer than it actually does.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about gaming and critical thinking. What are some of the ways that video games can help kids to think outside the box? How can puzzle games like Etherborn help to analyze problems in the real world?

  • What are some of the ways that art can influence the style and design of video games? How can games help to inspire the creativity of kids that play them?

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