Eternal Hope is a striking, soulful puzzle platformer experience that follows the story of Ti’Bi – a boy on a quest to save fragments of his beloved’s soul from certain doom. If you love Studio Ghibli and Hollow Knight, this short but sweet adventure from Doublehit Games and Kwalee is the darkest love story you’ve never played. Here’s our review of Eternal Hope.
Eternal Hope’s Bittersweet Narrative
One thing to say for Eternal Hope – if you love games with heart, this is full of it. It tells a bittersweet tale of love and loss. It’s a simple story: Ti’Bi (like many of us) is searching for a reason to keep on going. His reason to love life comes in the form of Hope. (Not like that, Hope is the name of his love interest). Their love story blossoms until, during a terrifying storm, tragedy befalls the two lovebirds.
In an emotional scene, you’ll explore Ti’Bi’s grief (trying to keep it spoiler-free here). Whilst we can argue about the moral implications of giving another person the unintended responsibility of managing your personal problems, it’s a sweet scene nonetheless.
The contrast of sadness and serenity is a juxtaposition explored across the narrative of the game. It threads itself through every part of the story, weaving intrinsically into the design.
In a state of sorrow, Ti’bi is visited by Death himself. Upon explaining that his girlfriend’s soul has been scattered across the realm, Ti’Bi is bestowed with the power to shift realities at will. The Keeper of Souls will return her to his side in the Land of the Living if Ti’Bi can collect all the pieces.
It’s a traditional boy-meets-girl love story that doesn’t exactly break the genre apart. But it doesn’t need to – the poignant graphics and moving music are more than enough to guide you through the hardships of Ti’Bi’s grief-stricken journey.
According to Doublehit Games, Eternal Hope has been inspired by Studio Ghibli. I can certainly see the resemblance, but I’m more reminded of the stylish aesthetic of Hollow Knight, Ori and the Blind Forest, and Limbo.
It looks like a fairytale come to life – full of whimsy and mystery. Vibrant hues of blues and purple swim around the player in this smooth polygon world, lifted by the striking glow of white that sparks life in these gorgeous environments. The contrast of deep shadows and shining highlights really does pair nicely with the metaphorical nature of the narrative.
With distinct foregrounds and backgrounds obscured by a shallow depth of field, our eyes were immediately drawn to the action in the middle. This is a lovely bit of design – Ti’Bi is constantly between two different worlds. Not only is this a gorgeous bit of world-building, it lends much-needed depth to this 2D side-scroller.
As Ti’Bi enters the mysterious Shadow World, your screen is filled with a claustrophobic blue tint, revealing menacing creatures lurking in the shadows who watch your every move. Less menacingly, Ti’Bi gets a very cute skull mask. Shifting realities is a mechanic you’ll be relying on a lot, so it’s a good job this world is just as pretty as the other.
Gameplay and Entertainment
Eternal Hope is very much what you might expect from a puzzle platformer. The aforementioned otherworldly creatures hold the key to solving the puzzles that stand in the way of reuniting Ti’Bi and Hope. By using your special powers, you can swing from platform to platform, scale heights and shift through objects. To add a bit of extra challenge, this skill has a stamina bar, so you have to use your gift sparingly.
Aided by a Navi-type creature (though far less annoying) called Heli, you explore 11 different chapters, all of which introduce you to tougher puzzles and enemies. Unfortunately, we found a lot of these puzzles to be very repetitive – push this, jump here, swap between worlds here. It’s a shame because games such as Limbo and Hollow Knight have similar mechanics and puzzles that don’t feel as same-y. Coming in at just over two hours long, the fact that Eternal Night’s gameplay elements and environmental puzzles never really evolved past Chapter 5 is disappointing.
One thing I loved about Eternal Hope is its incredible sound design. While the original soundtrack might be lacking the emotional impact that the narrative is clearly aiming for at times, the sound effects that infiltrate the world are great.
The soft whispers and the rustling of wildlife join your crunching footsteps as you travel between worlds. There’s this beautiful contrast between the crushing loneliness Ti’Bi feels and the bustling, delicate reminders of the life that surround you throughout your adventure. Even small details, such as the gentle, ever-constant ripples of the deadly water and the lonely tweets of flittering birds in the trees bring the world to life.
Eternal Hope has very simple keyboard controls and controller support, which is always nice to see. Some puzzles are quite hard and there are no options, as far as I can tell, for an easy mode. If puzzle games aren’t for you, this might be worth considering.
One thing that stood out to me was the scenes of implied animal cruelty that have no trigger warnings. Whilst there are no graphic depictions, such as blood or guts visible, there are shadows of speared creatures hanging from trees. In certain puzzles, causing harm to otherworldly animals is the only way to progress, which may be quite disturbing to some players.
So, Is Eternal Hope Worth Your Money?
Eternal Hope is a fascinating game that favours style over substance. Whilst the narrative is lofty and ambitious, the short playtime and repetitive puzzles dock it marks for me. However, that’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy my time with Ti’Bi. The heartwarming story and the bold design are more than enough to make me swoon. If you love puzzle platformers and striking aesthetics, this wonderful indie title will stay in your mind for days.
Eternal Hope is out now on Steam.
This review of Eternal Hope was completed on PC. Copy of Eternal Hope was provided to GameByte for review.
Featured Image Credit: Kwalee Ltd