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De-Exit - Eternal Matters is a joyous game about a difficult subject


De-Exit - Eternal Matters sells itself as both a game exploring death and "an ode to life". It wants to encourage people to talk about difficult subjects, and I gather it was inspired by the death of a close friend of the developer. I've been playing it for the last week, on and off, and while I haven't finished it, I can at least say this: it's a wonderful game, by turns melancholic and joyous. And it's always surprising.

Oh, and it's voxel-based, too, which is always money in the bank. You play as a skeleton exploring a surreal afterlife in an adventure that combines platforming, puzzling and stealth. Going in without knowing much about the game at all, I was delighted by early levels that really felt like the classic Core Design Tomb Raiders. Something to do with puzzles, perhaps, that involved a lot of blocks and pressure plates, but also the glorious chunky graphics, the muted colours, and that sense of being alone, deep inside a complex space. It's everything I love about those old games.

But De-Exit transforms itself fairly regularly. First, I was given a sort of torch power that allowed me to spot invisible monsters and work my way around their patrol routes for a surprisingly nimble bit of stealth. The next power is a kind of personal whirlwind, which destroys certain objects and can shift others about.

De-Exit: Eternal MattersWatch on YouTube

More than just the powers, though, the game seems wonderfully restless on its journey, and unwilling to settle down and be one thing. After early platforming and stealth, I found myself in a small town, with no dangers and dozens of other skeletons to chat to. There were puzzles here, but also backstory and a sort of laying on of the richness of the world. A hub, I figured, but that's not the case either - when it was time to leave, I was told I would not be returning. More levels, and then another bit of downtime in another settlement.

The most recent section I've played has been absolutely dazzling. I've found myself in the kind of area I love in games - a large open space in which multiple objectives can be tackled in any order. The main job is to get a bunch of propellers turning again, but the way I do this is moving between chunks of floating rock by diving in and out of jetstreams that then arc and loop across the sky.

These streams feel wonderful to move through - it genuinely feels like a platforming game has decided to throw in a bit of proper swimming. And alongside the elegance and sense of momentum there's also a real feeling that the player has time to stop and enjoy the view, to enjoy what's unfolding, think about what it all means, and move on only when they're ready.

This is the best kind of treat, I reckon: inventive, unwilling to settle on one idea for too long, ambitious, resonant with human themes that truly matter. And it all comes with voxels. And it reminds me of early Tomb Raider now and then. I could not ask for more.

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