Every once in a while, a game will come around that might not make a good first impression upon starting it up. Sometimes it takes some patience and perseverance to really see what a game has to offer. This was how I felt while playing Tim Minkov’s Escape From Tethys. Despite starting off feeling underwhelmed, putting more time into the game gave me a newfound appreciation. Sometimes, it’s best not to judge a game at first glance.
Escape From Tethys is a retro style Metroidvania title set in the year 2647. Two corporations, the Turan Science Corporation and Intergalactic Robotic Industries, seize control of society, though are constantly at odds. Deployed to the remote planet Tethys, a TSC weapons scientist is tasked with assisting with weapons development at a facility stationed there. Unfortunately, it appears that the facility workers have all been killed by an IRI assassin. Trapped on Tethys, the scientist will have to survive the dangers of the planet and escape. The story is pretty simple, and while there are data logs here and there, it’s not really the true focus here.
As I said before, I started the game mostly unimpressed. I was constantly feeling frustrated from what felt like cheap deaths and I often blamed the mechanics of the game. Your initial weapon lacks any range and you’re only able to jump and shoot in four directions. Even early upgrades didn’t seem to help. Nearly on the verge of giving up, I decided to push through and reach for the goal. I’m honestly glad I did, because after acquiring a few more upgrades, the gameplay started to drastically improve. I was learning how to adapt to enemy patterns and each new upgrade was making it more possible. While Escape From Tethys starts out simple, the game develops pretty gradually with each new upgrade obtained.
Upgrades range from new weapons to new traversal mechanics. Many of the weapons will use ammunition, so early on, you won’t want to just use them without reason. They’ll start out simple, like the rail gun or grenade launcher. Eventually you’ll get more complex weapons, like the screen clearing Firestorm. As for the traversal upgrades, you’ll eventually claim dashes, double jumps, hovering descents and even wall climbs. It was once I got these abilities that the gameplay really started to become fun for me. As I obtained these new upgrades, the map was starting to make more sense to me, and it began to show a pretty impressive design.
Like many Metroidvania titles, you’ll have a map to explore with various rooms to save progress in. Escape From Tethys also has teleport rooms to help you move around the map a bit. Each area has a distinctive look and style, which takes advantage of the resolution to give certain details. You’ll have a subterranean volcano, metallic man-made facilities, a dark forest, and even underwater chasms to explore. Using the Unity engine, the game gives a nice detail by using a background layer. Unfortunately, there are moments where the environment can give small visual bugs. Nothing game breaking at least, as it’s mostly stuff like the background shifting in place.
Those that explore these depths won’t just find upgrades, but they’ll also find a few bosses here and there. Boss battles ramp up in challenge, giving players a Mega Man style brawl. These fights can be pretty difficult sometimes, though there are various patterns to follow for most of them. Even with the most challenging bosses, adapting is part of the process, so if you’re struggling in a certain fight, don’t give up. Sometimes it’s just necessary to take a different approach in your strategy.
One of the things that took a bit of time to appreciate was the chiptune style music. At first, I wasn’t really impressed, but like the game, the soundtrack got better as I progressed. Some of the tracks are subtle, but others give a relaxing ambient background tune. The rest of the sounds are pretty simple, and some can even cause confusion when it comes to collision with enemies. Even though it’s enjoyable, there are some moments where audio bugs tend to show. One enemy in particular makes a sound as it comes towards you, and if you manage to defeat it before it moves, the sound still plays when you get close to it’s origin. Little things like that can be found in Escape From Tethys, but it’s not a detriment to the game.
Like most Metroidvania titles, the game isn’t super long. It’s mostly just exploring and finding the right way to go, but once you make it out, the game is over quickly. Most will likely take a couple hours to finish, but there’s a lot of speedrun potential. With enough practice, you can easily finish in under an hour. With the platforming and traversal options, shortcuts are plentiful, and with enough upgrades you’ll blast through different areas.
Overall, I enjoyed my time with Escape From Tethys. What started as a sour experience eventually became much sweeter, and I’m glad I didn’t give up. It might not be a long game, but for a budget title, it’s a pretty solid experience. If you’re a fan of retro style platformers or the Metroidvania genre, this may be one that you’ll want to check out.
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