ACE Team has a history of steadily releasing unique experiences. Whether it be Zeno Clash or Rock of Ages, the small team provides something with distinct flair and style that can only be found in their products. The ACE Team’s latest effort, The Eternal Cylinder, is no exception from that trend. In The Eternal Cylinder players will control small elephant-esque creatures called Trebhum in their pursuit of survival in a cruel, unfair world.
The Eternal Cylinder’s gameplay sees you and your band of Trebhum rolling from point to point, eating and drinking to survive, and overall discovering the world around you. Each new area the cylinder pushes you toward contains new challenges and biomes. Some of these biomes require you to grow extra long legs to jump to a higher surface, grow wooly fur to survive the cold, or even become as light as a balloon to float across large gaps. Boasting a whopping 50+ mutations available for your squishy little elephants, you are left free to assemble a team however you see fit and tackle whatever obstacle is in your way. In doing this, you will discover the history of your species, and the world as a whole, by meeting elders and exploring ruins of Trebhums long gone.
Of course, once a biome is explored and you cross the bounds to a new area an intense chase will begin with the titular cylinder demolishing everything you had just explored. These chase sequences are anxiety inducing as the once calm mood shifts to an all out race to the next tower that can stop the cylinder from plowing forward. These chases make fantastic use of swelling chaotic music paired with the growing thunder of the cylinder demolishing everything right on your tail. This makes finding the quickest route to escape the eternal cylinder’s wrath a heart racing event.
As if a world decimating cylinder across the horizon wasn’t a harsh enough adversary, your Trebhum will also meet tough battles with the servants of the cylinder. These are horrific creations that have adapted to drain your trebhum of mutations and pick them apart at their weakest. They often appear to be horrific men meshed with machines, all led by the mysterious, monstrous mathematician; a giant creature that is the driving power of the cylinder.
Unfortunately, through these battles you may lose some trebhum along the way. It’s a dangerous world after all. You will often need to hatch more or recruit them into your fold by offering certain items and requirements. Once a trebhum is a part of your family, they can never truly be gone. Certain points in the game allow you to recall fallen Trebhum and even hold them for later use. This method of resurrecting fallen members is incredibly useful as you will quickly find out, it’s easy to lose the little guys.
Whether it be experimenting with puzzle solutions, finding the right mutations, getting squashed by a cylinder chase, or simply mistiming a jump. The platforming can be a little on the floaty side which can make some challenges unintentionally more difficult than needed. For example, navigating a lava filled cavern can be a nightmare when you’re having trouble nailing jumps with your little Trebhum often paying the price. While this may seem infuriating, The Eternal Cylinder is surprisingly very forgiving in respawns, autosaves, and difficulty sliders.
This design premise of forgiveness is at odds with the main enemy of the game, that it is easy to think the game won’t have your back when you fail. What I mean by this is that in the very beginning you are alone, left to run and figure things out for yourself. You can quickly draw conclusions that this game is going to be tough as nails and way too unforgiving to have the freedom to really explore, but what you discover is that at every turn the game lends a helping hand. The narrator throughout the game is always quick to give out a tip, the mechanics of the game make it feel like when you do hit a setback it never takes too much away. The Eternal Cylinder does an amazing job at making you both feel completely alone yet also free to independently do what you feel is best.
The Eternal Cylinder is a beautiful game of exploration and defying all odds to carve out your own place in a world that seemingly wants you gone. The game both lets you explore how you feel is best, but provides a great safety net to catch you if something goes awry. This leaves you to experience the story at your pace and take in the beauty of the strange alien world. While the end goal can begin to feel a bit tedious to reach towards the latter parts of the game, it’s still a game that benefits from having a curious mind to explore.
A wonderfully weird adventure across an alien planet
The Eternal Cylinder is a quirky adventure with no shortage of existential dread. The Trebhum are a fun group to recruit, mutate and explore the terrain with and the world is rich in mystery and enigma’s that unfold nicely. To explain the finer details of the plot would be a disservice to the creators and to you, the player, for robbing you of the experience.