3 out of 5. More "Metroid-like" in that you power up entirely through what you find by exploring. Excellent map design and decent combat is held back by some lackluster production values.
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How Metroidvania is it? Perfect Fit. Leans more towards the Metroid side of the spectrum in the sense that you gain all of your power through exploration (Rather than leveling or other systems.)
Primary Challenge: Exploration Focus, Ranged Combat
Time to beat: ~4 hours
Review Info: Escape from Tethys was played on Steam

More Info

Developer: Whimsical
Publisher: Whimsical
Sub-genre: Metroid-Like
Features: Map System, 2D Platformer, Ranged Combat, Tricky Platforming, Fast Travel/Teleporters
Difficulty: Medium
Linearity/Openness: Open Low Gating - No Handholding
Platforms: Windows, MacOS, Steam, Switch, PS4, Xbox One
Release Date: 2018/07/12
Available Languages: English

Store Links

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Buy Escape from Tethys if you like…

  • Entirely eploration-focused power progression
  • Difficult Boss Fights
  • Becoming overpowered and trivializing content
  • The Retro Aesthetic
  • Lonesome atmosphere

▼ Review continues below ▼

Escape from Tethys is an excellent Metroidvania game that’s held back by its production values. The map is obviously meticulously planned, power-ups are all meaningful and satisfying, and it feels good to progress through its corridors. However, everything feels just a little “loose”, which I’ll try to explain in this review. The game it reminds me the most of is Environmental Station Alpha. Both are Metroid-like games that feature a Protagonist with a short-ranged attack and a dash upgrade, and in both games you’re dealing with a science station that’s under attack. But where ESA had extremely tight controls, clockwork bosses, and satisfying sound effects, Escape from Tethys dials it back just enough to make me hesitate to call it “Great.”

I think the biggest aspect of Escape from Tethys that could be improved on is the sound design. Sound effects can be a magical addition to your game. They can give flesh to an otherwise undetailed graphical presentation and add a very important feeling of weight to everything. As an example of where Escape from Tethys fails in this aspect, early in the game you may come across this rock boss who should be menacing, but just feels wrong. He silently hits the ground to make stalactites fall from overhead, he silently rushes across the room to punch you, and he silently belches lava onto the ground. I’m exaggerating, I think there is some kind of sound effect during this scene, but it’s barely noticeable. There are cases where silence might help an experience, I don’t think that kind of minimalist design conveys the kind of action Escape from Tethys is going for. If the sound design was improved, I’m willing to bet the “feel” of the game would be completely different.

The lack of good sound effects only draws attention to the weaknesses of the game’s animations. They’re not terrible by any means, but they could use a little work to help with conveying telegraphs and what the player should expect when controlling the protagonist. One of your first weapons is this giant laser, and the way its animated makes it feel sort of wrong that the beam doesn’t track your gun when you fire it. I had to kind of turn my brain off to what the game was telling me visually and think of it in terms of what was actually happening to get used to it and really start to see the good in the game.

Putting all of these presentation issues aside though, Escape from Tethys offers up a fantastic little Metroidvania world to explore. Everything loops in on itself, which helps to avoid making backtracking a chore. It’s not perfect by any means, some areas are maybe a little too open, but if I were to rate it against all other Metroidvanias, I’d say the larger world design at least would be on the top half of that list. Best of all, it starts out a very difficult on its normal difficulty, making it so finding power ups is meaningful and satisfying. Because of the difficulty, enemy health and ammo drops are important, so even the otherwise boring Item Magnet Upgrade was welcome. Eventually your character can become so powerful that you trivialize any remaining content you have left to play – and I personally think this is glorious.

As fun as it is to start out weak and eventually dominate though, it’s an easy criticism I can levy against it as well. Right at the start you’re thrown against a boss that will probably kill you, again and again. There is little in the way of teaching the player the ropes before tossing them into the fire. No gradual escalation into insane difficulty like Environmental Station Alpha. It’s not quite as bad as some of the harder games I’ve played, but if you’re the type to get frustrated at learning through death, I’d avoid this game. Break through that wall though and perhaps you’ll enjoy the contrast of how weak you were to how strong you become.

I suppose I can’t make comparisons to Environmental Station Alpha without also mentioning the Story. Escape from Tethys is as basic as it gets. The title says it all, and unless I’ve completely missed something, there aren’t any major secrets to uncover.

“Basic” is a good way to describe Escape from Tethys in general, but it handles everything it does just well enough to make a worthy consideration – especially at its $5 price point. It won’t blow your mind in the same way as other options, and perhaps its weaker production values will be a deal-breaker for some. But if you’re out of Metroidvanias that are of the “Metroid-Like” flavor – ones that focus entirely on powering up through exploration – I say give Escape from Tethys a try. It is a good game.


Final Score

3/5

Scoring system overview


Metroidvania Breakdown

Combat
– 3

The combat is solid, but lacks weight, and feels a little ''Off'' at times

Platforming
– 3.5

Some good platforming challenges, though later powerups let you cheese the hardest ones.

Exploration
– 4

Exploring makes you stronger - eventually VERY strong. This makes it a ton of fun to search every corner

Puzzle
– 2

Not really a focus. There's an occasional button puzzle, but nothing significant

Story
– 2

You're a dude (or lady?) that was trying on a Combat suit when your research center gets attacked. Time to go!

Graphics
– 2

The graphics are decent enough in stills, but in motion animations are just slightly off-kilter

Music
– 2.5

Decent enough, but forgettable

Replayability
– 2

Two difficulty levels if you didn't already start on normal. Some time-trial achievements if you're interested in that.


Want a second opinion? See what other reviews say:

Steam Reviews
All Time: Mostly Positive
(78% of 74 Reviews)


TBD Metacritic
Read critic reviews