Developer Interview: Aeternum

Aeternum.  I didn’t love it.  Couldn’t even beat the first stage.  So why am I talking to the developers?  Well, because they’re my friends.  And, let’s face it, in this crazy modern world, cronyism is the glue that holds everything together.  Besides, it was late Friday night and after having a nuclear-level seizure, I figured games would be semi-off limits for the weekend.  I needed something to post, and my friends were in to lend me a hand.  It’s enough to make you cry tears of blood, is it not?

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Once upon a time, I had friends who did XBLIG reviews right alongside me.  There was Two Fedoras, Gear-Fish, and Armless Octopus.  Then my friends all left writing game reviews to making games, leaving me all alone to fend off titles about sperm by myself.  Well, now their games have all hit.  First was Dave’s horrid Pong clone, a game so bad it has now taken a place on the Wong-Baker pain scale.

“I don’t know doctor. This pick axe lodged in my skull hurts a lot, but I don’t think its quite as bad as Piz-ong.”

And now we have Aeternum, designed by Brooks Bishop of Two Fedoras, with an assist in writing from Nate Graves of Gear-Fish.  What is Aeternum?  Why, it’s a bullet hell!  See though, there’s a difference between this game and the Pong game that Dave made.  That difference is this is the type of game Brooks has always wanted to make.  My gut tells me that Dave never dreamed of making a Pong game.  As a kid, he probably did imagine making a game with rocking Genesis box art, but I’m sure his vision probably involved Mega Man fighting Saddam Hussein or something.

Personally, I hate bullet hells.  I know I’ve said that I don’t have any biases against any particular genres, but that was what can politely be described as a fib.  I just don’t get the damn things.  A challenge is one thing, but bullet hells typically cross the line over into digital self-mutilation.  Part of my disdain for them comes from the fact that I totally missed the 2D shooter era.  I didn’t grow up with Gradius, R-Type, or Raiden.  Maybe if I had spent my formative years hunkering down on those, I would have the skills necessary to make it more than five minutes in a bullet hell.   Alas, no.  I did have Ikaruga for the GameCube, but its a soul-crushing bastard that I barely spent enough time with to form an opinion at all.  Then I developed epilepsy at sixteen and had an excuse to never touch a bullet hell ever again, proof that every cloud has a silver lining.

So here’s the awkward moment: Nate and Brooks are my friends.  Nate and me have shared many amazing, emotional conversations.  Brooks designed my Sweetie character, a variation of which now graces a few games on the marketplace as my Seal of Approval.  I don’t necessarily want to hurt their feelings.  Then again, they wanted to hurt my pride and make me question my skills as a gamer.  How else do you explain them making a bullet hell?  Besides, I was so pissed at Dave for Piz-ong that I sent him to his room to think about what he had done.  And that was just for a bad Pong clone.  For a bullet hell, I think I’m legally entitled to water-board Nate & Brooks.

The dialog by Nate Graves is, um, hey look, a kitty!

Aeternum (Latin for “Eternal”, the amount of torment one can expect from this fucker) is a loving tribute to evil games with badly translated Japanese.  You play as some anime thing that has to shoot bullets at other anime things, such as things that look like strawberry milkshakes, or giant squids that go by names like Archibald the Cat Wrangler.  It’s quirky!  It’s Japanese!  It’s.. fucking impossible.  I’m sorry, but I put two separate one-hour sessions into this and I couldn’t get past the first stage.  I could get as far as a fight with some other flying anime chick thing, but she spams the screen with fast-moving bullets.  I’m going to be the laughing-stock of hardcore gamers everywhere, but I couldn’t make any progress at all.  And this was the normal difficulty!  But then again, I couldn’t even past her on practice mode.  I’m just not wired for this shit.

Here’s what I did observe: the controls seem responsive.  The graphics are well done.  And every screen-wide spamming is allegedly survivable.  I’m not personally willing to put in the time to learn how to survive them, but if you’re into this sort of thing, enjoy.  It’s not friendly towards people who don’t like the genre, and I outright didn’t get things like the focus mode, which slows you down but not the bullets.  I went through the tutorial a couple of times trying to figure out what benefit there was to it, or to grazing bullets, but the game fails to properly articulate it.

What I’m depressed about is there are now two games out by my former colleagues and I hated them both.  They’re my friends, you know?  I want them to do well.  When we talk about their games, I want to be able to do so lovingly, without having to change the conversation to a more pleasant subject.  Like whether or not they think this mole growing on the back of my hand is cancerous or not.

This is as far as I could make it. Shameful? Um, hey look, a puppy!

Props to them though.  I couldn’t make a game.  Nor am I likely to, say, hypothetically pay someone to make a game for me.  A broken one, designed to test how much effort is put into the peer-testing system.  A game that has at least one crash, one major play control issue, one major collision detection issue, two other evil checklist violations, and various spelling and grammar errors, which I would then submit for peer review just to see how much you dipshits actually try to find this stuff.  Yea, I wouldn’t even consider doing that.  See this —> 🙂 That’s a smiley face.  And it would not lie to you.

Oh, and Aeternum can put a gun to its own temple and send itself to bullet hell Hell.  Which I imagine is where bad bullets go, like the one that killed Bambi’s mother.

Aeternum was developed by Wasted Brilliance

80 Microsoft Points could be in peer review as we speak right now for all you guys know in the making of this review.

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