STAFF REVIEW of Eternal Cylinder, The (Xbox One)

Wednesday, November 3, 2021.
by Peggy Doyle

Eternal Cylinder, The Box art Evolution and survival of an individual or species depends on a variety of situations and circumstances that cause a shift in how an entity will adapt to survive. In the case of ACE Team’s, The Eternal Cylinder, the cause is the massive deadly dowel constantly rolling towards you while it flattens the terrain and everything else in its path, while you band together with your fellow Trebhums to evolve and survive.

Trebhums are bi-pedal creatures with a trunk like snout that start in a very simple form with little to no survival skills. Your main role in the game is to stay alive - and gather others to join your group. Safety in numbers. You recruit other Trebhum by finding them in the world, and either hatching them or freeing them from their confines. As you recruit them you get to name them as well, so that was sort of fun to name them all with a theme in mind. Once they join, they follow around after you and you can swap between them at will, though you only control one Trebhum at a time. The more followers you have, the better, just in case your main guy gets eaten or flattened by the cylinder rolling along.

Yes, sometimes the little guys die, but if you have at least one survivor in your group, your lost family members can be rescued from death via a strange platform/altar thing and a bunch of crystal dust that you collect around the map. The Trebhum don’t interact with each other but are very good at following the leader and will warp to you if they get too far away. You must avoid starving to death, being eaten, or squashed by any of the dangers surrounding you, whether it be environmental or creature. I feel like there is some sort of Aussie ‘everything here is trying to kill you’ joke I could insert here.

The main way to move around The Eternal Cylinder is to tuck and roll. Later in the game you can unlock a few others, but walking and rolling are your two main ways of traversing. There is also a survival mechanic in play as the Trebhums must maintain their health, hydration and stamina by using their snouts to suck up anything around them like a vacuum cleaner. This is normally plants, sometimes small creatures, and water. Some items you consume will give you the mutation effects, like growing fur to survive a wintery climate, or webbed feet to be able to paddle across bodies of water. One even turns you into a cube so you can become a sort of key to unlock a door. Some mutations are even stranger, and you can mix and match on your crew of Trebhums to create a large variety of options. I expected a more advanced evolution system from the game, but the mutations were simply different skills.

There is quite a lot going on in The Eternal Cylinder, with a broad range of mutations for different purposes. There were times that I was confused with the game. There was never really a clear indication of what you were supposed to do other than evolve and survive. I found myself tossing between feeling like I had no idea what was happening and might not have the right mutations to move forward and feeling like I also didn’t have enough to do to use my mutations before moving onto the newest one. I rarely found myself in a situation where I didn’t find the right mutations to move along quickly and didn’t have many situations where I died because I couldn’t find the right ones either.

The gameplay loop consists of you running away from the giant cylinder to reach a tower in the distance. Reach the tower, activate it and somehow it holds back the giant dowel of death. I don’t question the magical powers in this world. While the tower is holding back the cylinder, you have time to eat, solve puzzles, mutate and explore. You also use this time to increase the size of your group by finding new Trebhums to join you. Once you have done all you need to, you step outside the magical glowing dome that defines your safe zone and the cylinder starts rolling again. The tension runs high in this world. When the cylinder begins to roll, I cannot explain the stress I felt as I made my way to the next tower. I dislike any game with ‘timers’ and even though this didn’t specifically have a ‘time until death’ clock running, you were definitely under a time crunch. The sound design motivates you to run for your life. If you die, not to worry, you can just load a recent save and try again.

The Eternal Cylinder boasts a veritable kaleidoscope of brightly coloured, creepy alien flora and fauna. A true feast for the eyes, but some goofy controls really made the game a bit trying at times. The games environment never really becomes entirely identifiable even though I found myself often trying to identify comparisons of the animals and plants in that world to mine. The world feels like it could have been pulled directly from the pages of a children’s book. A whimsical sense of design and colour feels familiar and comforting, but there is also this wild and disturbed side. Eventually I found myself wondering what kinds of creative minds could produce something so completely bizarre and yet so familiar.

I caught myself on more than one occasion wondering how these creatures could survive in their environments, but then realized I was over thinking it and tried to let the creative youthful sense of wonder and whimsy simply propel me forward protecting my adorable misfit family. There are many diverse environments, lush jungles, ice and snow-covered plains, even dry and hot deserts. They all felt full and distinct from one another, each having their own flora and fauna. I was slightly disappointed when I didn’t see much in the way of interactions between the inhabitants of each ecosystem. It would have been nice to see some of that dynamic instead of them simply existing in each biome.

There are a variety of difficulty settings and it’s easy to switch them in game if you find you want to just relax and not be as stressed with the combat or survival mechanisms. One thing I didn’t see was a colour-blind mode. Perhaps I missed it, but in a game that uses colour a lot, it would be particularly useful in helping with accessibility. The campaign felt a bit long for the content provided, but there were enough twists and turns to keep me intrigued and moving forward.

I spent a lot of time while playing, wondering if the simple style and gameplay was just too simple or was ACE Team trying to tell a bigger story? Was there more to this tale of evolution and survival when what was on the surface? Maybe the giant rolling cylinder was the world, looking to crush the little guy, or maybe it was about how we should always have some hope and continue to try to be unique, stand out and be ourselves? Or maybe it was just a child like tale brought to life to entertain me for a few hours and I shouldn’t look into it too much and just enjoy the wild and wacky ride?

Any way you look at it, The Eternal Cylinder was a whacky and enjoyable ride. I found myself sad when I lost a family member and felt guilt when I didn’t have enough materials to revive them after death. The fact that ACE Team made me connect to these small creatures in such a small time just proves to me that I will always cheer for the underdogs and always try protect my friends and family. If you’re looking for a simple game that stirs the imagination, you should definitely check it out.

*The Eternal Cylinder was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X*

Overall: 7.3 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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