Within a few minutes, Eternal Hope will have your emotions careening from one end to the next. Things start off rather twee as your silhouetted boy Ti’bi mopes about alone in the woods, until one day he happens to meet the love of his life, only for her to be taken away after a tragic accident. But when a shadowy figure called the Keeper of Souls tells Ti’bi he can still save his belle by retrieving fragments of her soul, our protagonist is prepared to go to hell and back for love.
What this boils down to is a 2D puzzle platformer where you have the power to shift between your world and a shadow plane where you’re also assisted – sometimes unwittingly – by masked figures reminiscent of Spirited Away’s No-Face. A mysterious fairy called Heli, who accompanies you for most of your journey, isn’t just there to chat lore, but also to keep your power in check, with a gauge limiting the time you can remain in the shadow world. For the most part, the puzzles are basic, and simply require getting from A to B by pushing or pulling an object or hitting a switch. The shifting mechanic adds a bit of a twist, but not enough on its own. Having otherworldly beings appear in the shadow world is one thing, but there’s no real logic to platforms or objects only being in one realm or the other, so it comes off as a contrivance.
Each of the short chapters does try to introduce a new threat or mechanic, from fleeing from traps and trolls to manipulating water levels while avoiding drowning yourself. Much of this will feel familiar, but it’s all executed with real design flair, and the controls are nicely judged. The obvious influence is Limbo – down to the silhouette figures with white dots for eyes – but Eternal Hope lacks the same mystery in its storytelling, even if it does sometimes succeed in tugging at your heartstrings. It doesn’t help that its visuals are sometimes more complicated than they need to be, so there are moments where you don’t realise which objects can be interacted with and which are simply part of the background. On a number of occasions, I found myself stuck on puzzles where I didn’t realise something was interactable or that I had to die a few times before the solution became apparent, which led to some frustrating trial-and-error moments.
For a game that can be finished in a couple of hours, Eternal Hope often feels like it drags on for longer, as it doesn’t manage to do enough to make its puzzles and encounters have the same level of invention and intrigue as its influences. After that emotional opening, I was surprised to find myself a bit bored by the time Eternal Hope’s predictable conclusion emerged from the shadows.
The forest isn’t completely filled with peril every step you go. Besides the shadowy An’mu who lend a literal hand, you also encounter a couple of animal allies that come to your aid, including one who initially seems like a threat – but the sight of hunted wildlife strung up is a sign they probably have more to fear than you.
A heartfelt story that’s sadly hollow in execution.
Genre: Puzzle platformer Format: PC / Mac / Xbox One | Developer: Doublehit games | Publisher: Kwalee | Price: £7.19 | Release: Out now