Death is a concept with so many brilliant angles to tackle it. For each person there is a unique perspective and with this comes the ability to really dig deep for something greater. De-Exit - Eternal Matters really tries but regularly trips itself up in all the hurdles you need to cross to get there.
Putting aside bugs and finicky controls, loose narrative threads are never quite pulled together by the game's grander aspects. It has enough heart to overlook the start of its problems but not quite enough to pull it through.
De-Exit - Eternal Matters is an experiment I appreciate but it still just feels like an experiment. One day, many of its thoughts and systems could be put towards a much greater vision but now it fails to hit many of the targets it so valiantly strikes for.
The Lux of the draw
In De-Exit - Eternal Matters, you play as Lux, a chosen adventurer who escapes from the clutch of death to save his people from the encroaching dark. Being a being of both life and death, you are a saviour of those around you but also a constant reminder of what comes next. For the most part, this story works as a good platform to talk about existential themes.
De-Exit really wants to be cinematic and you can tell this in the way it deals with cutscenes. Much of the initial story holds your hand throughout it, showing specific shots and scenes. Unfortunately, many of the story beats aren't strong enough to justify just how long they take to get there.
There's quite a lot of depth under the surface to talk about humanity's urges to hide from and wallow in our own death but this is mostly betrayed by its gameplay. Being a mostly stealth puzzle game, you could talk about the meta-narrative of hiding and running from a concept we can never behind. This is betrayed by a litany of bugs, finicky controls, and far too much waiting around.
Much of this is personified in the chase at the end of Chapter 2. You find a creature scarier than anything you have faced before - capable of pummeling through walls and seeing you at a distance. The whole level is littered with streams that you jump on to move from one place to another. This is all dropped for a mad rush up to the top of a tower.
While this works conceptually, there are huge clipping issues, bugs, and mediocre platforming. The game is partly a platformer and yet platforming feels clunky and slow. You never quite know if your character will pull themselves up from a ledge until you've made the leap. Instead of feeling like a challenge you have to master, it's closer to a hit you have to stomach.
This isn't helped by how slow many of the chase sections are. You are constantly pushed into hiding and creeping around enemies and some sections can be quite long. When many of the deaths aren't your own fault, it gives you no justification to push through each death. De-Exit is a game all about death and our innate desires to fight it that never really gives you a justification to keep Lux living.
Unfortunately, the poor chase at the end of chapter 2 is only a microcosm of the game's fundamental problems. Many of the chases feel almost entirely down to luck due to poor pathing, many tiny invisible obstacles, and floaty platforming. Fundamentally, De-Exit doesn't thrive in either of the two main genres it paints itself as.
Outside of this, many of the puzzles are quite creative but fail in their execution. Originally starting out with nothing, you are soon given a light ability that can illuminate invisible creatures and change the shapes of structures. Then you are given even more, like a spin power and the ability to telekinetically move objects.
These powers are used well in some of the more simple puzzles but feel awfully awkward as the game gets more complex. In Chapter 3, you are tasked with helping groups of potential survivors, meaning you are entirely reliant on their movement. This section is frustrating as they often don't move to the right area and I regularly had to exit and start the game just to progress.
Visually, I quite like De-Exit. It uses a voxel art style with blocks and smooth shapes, giving everything an almost childlike feel. Given the central theming, this helps to flip your expectations. When the game gets dark, the style and atmosphere help it a lot.
The same can be said for the music. It has synth strings but also heavily relies on ambience. This is something that draws you into the game wonderfully but so many of the game's other problems let it down.
A copy of De-Exit - Eternal Matters was provided by the publisher