I’m a sucker for side scrolling puzzle games, especially those with enigmatic storylines, physics-based puzzles, and a protagonist that is forced to run more often than fight. Games like Inside and Far: Lone Sails were some of my favorite games of this generation. But the game that started it all, Limbo, still holds massive influence to those who would try and recreate this specific brand of side-scrolling puzzler. Eternal Hope feels like an homage to Limbo, while taking its own stab at the sub-genre, with its own twist.
Eternal Hope is a side scrolling puzzler game. You play as white-eyed boy Ti’bi. Lonely throughout life, he finally meets the love of his life, only for her to be killed during a freak accident during a violent storm. Wracked with grief, Ti’bi is visited by a shadow creature that offers to help him retrieve his girlfriend’s soul. This creature grants you the ability to peer into the shadow realm—a parallel world that is slightly different than the ‘normal’ world. He’s also accompanied by Heli, a creature that very much resembles Navi from Ocarina of Time. Heli doles out advice, and acts as a guide to Ti’bi.
Most of the gameplay in Eternal Hope is about pushing and pulling objects to circumvent obstacles. Sometimes those obstacles are higher ledges to get on, or lakes that have to be traversed—Ti’bi can’t swim. Other times there are enemies that stand in your way. There is no combat. Ti’bi can occasionally fight back if the environment permits—though he is relegated to running and thinking his way out of problems most of the time. And if there is no obvious solution, Ti’bi probably just has to put on his mask and peer into the Shadow Realm for help.
Eternal Hope revolves around Ti’bi’s ability to shift into the Shadow Realm, and even employ the creatures there. Can’t cross a lake? There might be a shadow creature willing to serve as a bridge, or even drain the lake. I say “willing” but these creatures seem mostly passive. They’re definitely not things that look like they should be helping you, but despite their somewhat scary appearance, their docile nature makes them seem almost like large harmless beasts. Occasionally it feels like the Shadow Realm mechanic was forgotten about, or thrown in ‘just because,’ but more often than not going into the Shadow Realm to solve a puzzle was employed in a clever way.
One of the things that makes a side scrolling game feel great—even one that is based mostly around puzzles—is how the movement feels. Does it feel satisfying to run and jump? Does pushing and pulling this block feel right? Eternal Hope, unfortunately, is weakest here. It doesn’t feel satisfying to play, with movement and jumping that tend to feel a little floaty. Swinging on ropes in Eternal Hope is the worst, and there was one section I redid a number of times because I wasn’t hanging on the exact right part of the rope when I attempted my swing.
Eternal Hope is story driven, with a compelling narrative. I was genuinely curious to see how Ti’bi’s journey ended, but there were some occasionally clumsy storytelling bits. I won’t spoil anything, but there was one reveal that seemed like it was told at a very strange point in the game. It was an important story moment, but it felt completely out of place at that point in the story’s progression. Despite its occasionally clumsy storytelling, Eternal Hope’s narrative is effectively poignant, though relentlessly bleak. Eternal Hope has an outwardly cute appearance, but it also has some genuinely horrifying moments—like heads bitten off horrifying—but nothing is ever too gruesome, though it’s borderline. It’s in stark contrast of the game’s almost cute art style.
Eternal Hope takes lots of cues from Limbo in terms of art. The protagonist is a black silhouette with white eyes—and a white scarf—but comparisons with the boy from Limbo are almost impossible to ignore. Everything looks like it’s made in a paper craft style, and has lots of colors—especially in the background—which makes everything feel more mystical than Limbo’s shades of grey. The Shadow Realm is full of dreadful creatures, but they all feel gentle, and look like something you’d see in a studio Ghibli film.
Eternal Hope probably won’t endure as a classic, but if you’re a fan of Limbo or similar games, it’s worth playing. Despite its occasionally clumsy storytelling, Eternal Hope spins a yarn about a boy’s quest for his girlfriend’s soul—and ends up being about as bleak as that sounds. But, you can’t give up hope—I mean, it’s even in the title.
Eternal Hope is available today on Steam.
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