While we may not be able to escape to exotic, sun-drenched, locations this summer we can at least try to escape from fictional vicious worlds. A tenuous link, we know. The far-flung planet of Tethys houses a research facility plunged into chaos. As a scientist, it’s up to you to fight off the planet’s primitive life forms while finding a way back to the surface, gaining new upgrades along the way.
We’re in ‘Metroidvania’ territory once again, only this time there are subtle hints of Mega Man – our blue-hued hero is equipped with an arm cannon, which can unleash a powerful beam, while boss battles are against diminutive foes and set in single-screen arenas.
It’s business as usual elsewhere – it presents a sprawling rabbit-warren style labyrinth to explore, set across lava, underwater and forest biomes, with most areas having multiple exits. Every area has vital save rooms to discover too (there’s no autosave, incidentally) as well as a teleporter which helps reduce backtracking.
The map is invaluable, showing which areas are yet to be explored fully. It’s a shame it isn’t on-screen at all times – as Metroidvania’s go this one is remarkably open, making it easy to become lost. There’s no handholding or even a list of objectives – you’re left to freely explore and discover where the upgrades lie.
Health point boosters and larger energy tanks are commonly found – assisting the general sense of progression, and sometimes sneakily hidden – whereas essential upgrades are infrequent. Sadly, these are typical for the genre including boost thrusters that bestow a double jump, and the ability to dash across large gaps.
Most locations feature several enemy types, all of which have their own attack patterns. There’s a neat ‘primitive’ feel to the creature assortment, with many resembling early lifeforms. The fish in the underwater area are the most persistent, nipping at your heels. For the most part, enemies can be easily avoided – Easy Mode grants 30 hit points (i.e you can withstand a generous thirty hits before dying) and save rooms additionally restore health. Occasionally you’ll have to frantically hotfoot it back to safety with little health while at risk of losing all progress since your last save.
It’s clear developer Whimsical has a passion for the genre, with a fondness for the early Metroid games in particular. This is a competently put together experience with some surprisingly soothing music – instead of chiptunes, it has a much more contemporary score – and a decent size game world to explore.
Although the pixel art is on the crude side, a few effects – such as camera panning, and rooms lit only by the nameless lead’s headtorch – help bolster presentation. Adding to this, the recoverable data logs are well written too.
While Escape from Tethys doesn’t do anything to push the genre forward, neither is it a step backwards – it’s delivered with confidence and is consistently enjoyable. Genre diehards may roll their eyes when it comes to its mechanics; newcomers are in for a solid, if unspectacular, time.