echochrome

By on July 4, 2008

What you see is not always what you get.

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First Impressions
My reaction is

Occasionally, (and I use the word lightly) there comes a game that makes me stop and think “Who in the world came up with the idea for this game?” Now I don’t mean this in a bad way at all – there are some games that are so unique or just so addictive, that you just can’t help but thank the genius that came up with the idea for it. Echochrome for the PSP is one such unique game, and thought it might not attract a huge fan base, it still has enough to irk your attention for a couple of hours.

The game is beautifully simple, yet cruelly tough in some levels. Remember those optical illusions of a man going up an infinite flight of stairs? Well Echochrome is just that, except spread of 56 levels. You are put in charge of a small mannequin who walks around a 3-D construct filled with holes, stairs, gaps, and slopes. The objective is to get the mannequin to walk into four shadows on the level, called ‘echoes’ in order to proceed to the next level. While this may sound easy enough, it really isn’t. The game focuses on the world of perspective – if you can’t see something, then it doesn’t exist. By tilting the camera angle around, you can hide gaps from sight, and your mannequin will magically walk across. Fall through a hole and you land on whatever is directly below. The game constantly toys with your perception of the level, as every turn and shift of the camera unlocks new paths and makes old ones impossible to traverse. To ease you into this unique style of gameplay, the game does have quite a thorough tutorial, which introduces you to the five perspective laws – mastering each one is fundamental to winning the level. Upon successful completion of the tutorial, the game slaps on a 3 minute timer per level, so the race is on to finish the level in the shortest possible time. Initially this doesn’t seem to pose a problem, but with some of the later levels spanning several flights and sections, you quickly begin to lose your cool.

That said, the construction of each level is a paradox in itself – often levels that look simplest turn out to be the hardest ones, while complicated ones can be solved in a matter of seconds. One thing I will admit though, is that most of the time luck plays a real card in winning. Often you will discover a new pathway by mere accident, when your mannequin reaches the end of a flight of stairs or falls through a different hole. Still, anything that helps you finish the level is fine by me. If you need a break from racing against the clock, the game does feature an in-depth level editor, which lets you have your way and create a dastardly difficult level of your own. You can then swap your levels with friend via ad-hoc and watch them tear their hair out in grief.

The game’s graphics are nothing to get excited about – the entire game is black and white, and actually works in favour of the gameplay. Since you’ll need to concentrate on working out the correct path, it’s a good thing that there aren’t any distracting visuals to break your concentration. The sound effects are also very subtle, and the background music is a mere violin or two softly playing away. The only flaw I came across in the game was the camera controls – though your camera perspective governs which path you can and cannot take, I often found that the camera didn’t line up pathways properly, so my mannequin ended up falling or going another way, when he should have actually crossed a gap or done something else. Even though the game has a shortcut to neatly align paths, you often can’t press it in time because you assume that your mannequin will be able to find the correct path. And despite your near-total freedom with the camera movement, there were some levels where you were forced to put the camera in once particular perspective in order to finish the level, rather than explore and discover the path on your own.

Despite these minor annoyances, Echochrome is an enjoyable play. Though it isn’t a game that will appeal to standard puzzle players, it’s still a game that will keep you occupied on those long bus rides or flights back home. With plenty of levels and a level-editor to boot, this is one game that will have you looking at things in a different light – literally.


The Scorecard
GAMEPLAY
8
Starts off easy, but soon gets mischievously difficult, yet not hard enough for you to quit playing.
GRAPHICS
8
Clean, crisp, and simple, though there were a few issues with camera alignment.
SOUND
8
An unobtrusive gentle soundtrack that won’t break your concentration.
VALUE
9
Priced ridiculously cheap, while the level editor ensures plenty of replay value.
FUN FACTOR
7
Downloadable content would have been a plus side, as in the PS3 version.
OVERALL
8
With easy to learn concepts and simple, straightforward gameplay, Echochrome will have you defying the laws of gravity in no time.

About

A former IT & Marketing Manager turned full time Editor, Nick enjoys hurling fireballs and tinkering with the latest gadgets. Follow him on Twitter as @theregos

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