Developer: ACE Team
Publisher: Good Shepherd Entertainment
Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Version Review: PC
The Eternal Cylinder is without a doubt the weirdest of the games I’ve played this year. In this game, you play as a sentient Trunk who is hunted by Juggernauts and hybrid Autobots while being relentlessly pursued by a giant planet-shattering cylinder. It’s a captivating experience that’s as captivating as it is terrifying, blending incredible art with the theme of living in the midst of ecological disaster. It’s not a great game, but even in its weakest moments, it’s no less than charming.
The sentient trunk I mentioned is actually called trebhum, a pudgy little alien born into a world that is slowly being overrun by an unstoppable The cylinder stretches to the horizon, slowly being crushed into dust. I’m not quite sure how this would work geometrically, though it’s a far cry from the logical hurdles that The Eternal Cylinder jumps in a gay way.
Your lofty goal is to survive, but the urn of eternity The structure is not like other survival games. The omnipresence of the cylinder across the entire world axis forces the game into a more linear mode than most Survivors, as the cylinder chases you as you push forward, crushing trees and structures as well as the ground itself beneath its massive bulk.
Well, not often. Small refuge bubbles can be found in the tower, and they will stop the cylinder’s progress as long as you stay within their blue area of influence. The towers provide not only respite for trebhum, but also opportunities to explore and grow. Using their trunks, trebhum can absorb different kinds of edible objects and store them in their stomachs. Some provide health, while others provide energy for escaping the cylinder. But some of these objects cause trebhum to mutate, giving them longer legs for bigger jumps, or making them grow hair to keep warm in colder parts of the world. There’s even a mutation that turns trebhums into cubes, which not only helps them solve certain puzzles, it’s also super fun.
Benefits more than just your treble coming from these mutations. As you progress through the world, your trebhum will meet other trebhums who can join your family under the right circumstances. Some can be hatched by placing them in a hatching flower, while others must be revived with magic crystals, or persuaded to leave their bubbly home by providing them with the right resources.
There are practical reasons for this – certain passages in the world require at least three trebhums to unlock, and if your group leader, you’ll also control another trebhum to be killed. But mostly you just don’t want these cute little aliens being squished into mush by the cylinder. Your trebhum companion is the key to the game’s more urgent moments. For example, my starting trebhum was killed by a predator within the first half hour of the game, and I wasn’t able to revive it until much later at the trebhum shrine, which felt like a special moment.
This is a game full of clever ideas , although some of them are more interesting in theory than in practice. Playing as these evolving creatures isn’t as much fun as it first seems. A big problem is that trebhum’s control isn’t particularly satisfying. Getting better jumping legs is only fun if the jumps start to feel good, and a lot of mutations suffer from mediocrity under the fingers. The public aspects of the game are equally simple. Your trebhum companion doesn’t really do much in instant play other than open weird doors and act as an extra life.
Yet while mechanically impressive, the Eternal Cylinder is rescued from tedium by its structure and storytelling. Some brilliant narratives provide context for the broad story of Trebhum’s journey, gradually revealing the complex and surprisingly emotional history of this resilient and adaptable alien race. Meanwhile, progress to the next tower often triggers a unique event that keeps the game fresh, such as a giant snake falling from the sky, or something emerging from behind a cylinder.
The world itself is also very interesting. The planet on which the game takes place resembles a collaborative art project between Salvador Dali and Hieronymus Bosch, a surreal dreamscape with strange things happening around every corner of the frame. There are snot-nosed monsters, and snails can split themselves in two and snap together like a bear trap. You walk up to what looks like a giant pink rock, only for it to suddenly crack open at the bottom to reveal rows of human teeth. Yet everything here feels haphazard, with the color palette and meticulous landscaping giving this otherwise impossible world a consistent and believable feel.
And of course, there’s the cylinder itself, which might be the most fearsome opponent since Isolation’s Xenomorph. As it begins to move, its entire length glows a hellish orange, illuminating the entire horizon with curvilinear hellfire. It’s also easy to underestimate, starting slowly and then accelerating abruptly, its rumble turning into a deafening roar as it approaches your little alien horde. You can almost feel its heat through the screen as it lights up the back of your tripod, and the camera shakes uncontrollably as you scramble desperately to secure the next tower. It’s a macabre and mesmerizing phenomenon, one that can’t be looked directly at nor looked away.
What a pity for Eternal Vat The underlying system doesn’t work at quite the same level as its art and storytelling, or you’re left with a cold masterpiece. Still, Eternal Cylinder is a clever, unique, and spectacular experience, and its haunting prismatic enemies will haunt your nightmares for weeks to come.