Echochrome Demo Review

By Mike on 9:39 pm

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Can gaming be a legitimate art form. Many like to think so including myself. We've seen titles such as Okami for example which created a world in the form of a living painting. Sony's Japan Studio has been cranking out some innovative and off beat games such as LocoRoco and Patapon. These two games defied conventional gaming wisdom by going back to 2D but creating colourful, artistic worlds. Echochrome is another puzzle game that has tried to follow this path. I'm having trouble writing this mini review since the game itself is simple yet surprisingly difficult to describe.

Echochrome could probably be best summed up as a living MC Escher drawing, resembling other similar impossible objects such as the devils tuning fork. Sony describes it as a spatial awareness puzzler. The graphics of the game are very simplistic and rather bland. A plain white background with simple black lines rendering 3D geometric shapes. More colour or some backgrounds would have been nice. The game is available for both the Playstation 3 and PSP though both are graphically identical. Gameplay is equally simple. You rotate the environment to change perspective. Changing perspective changes how your stick figure moves. He moves along the walkways and you can either stop him or make him walk faster, but other than that you don't have any solid control over him. Hiding holes and "bridging" (hiding) gaps can open new paths. You can also change the perspective of holes to make paths above them seem below, which is how your character will fall through them. Your goal is to maneuver the character to "echo" figures in order to finish the level. There's a video on the Playstation Blog that will show gameplay since it really is difficult to describe. The demos for both systems feature a tutorial and three levels, but the experience is surprisingly short lived. Each version has 56 exclusive levels. The full version will feature a level creator and users will be able to upload their custom levels to PSN on PS3. PSP custom levels can be shared over wifi. As for audio the only music in the demo is a repetitive solo violin/cello tune in a reserved, classical style. A robotic female voice with an English accent provides instructions. The game's concept is interesting and certainly different but audio and graphics wise, there's not much to say.

So, did I like Echochrome? No I didn't. Why? I just don't see the point of this game. I would hesitate to even call it a game. The demo was incredibly short lived, I beat it in about 10 minutes but I didn't find it particularly stimulating or challenging. There's no real rewards in terms of score for successfully completing levels. There are no time limits and there is no punishment for mistakes. Your character can't die but rather is simply reset to where they were before they fell into the abyss. The goal just seems to be getting to the end and nothing more. If it weren't for the custom level creator, the game would have absolutely no replayability. The general concept of Echochrome as a living MC Escher drawing is interesting but the game itself is, quite frankly, boring. It looks like something you'd see at a university art gallery, not as a commercially produced video game. I'm not so uncultured as to expect this game to have guns and blood. However, when comparing it to recent colourful, engaging puzzle games such as LocoRoco, Patapon, or even the venerable Tetris, Echochrome comes off as being pointless. I really don't want to call this a bad game, and I'll know people will get upset with me by saying this, but it is just a bad game. I'm really being generous with the four out of ten I gave it. Mind you, the game is well put together for what it is. If you like it, more power to you, but I can't see it as being even a minor diversion. I honestly don't understand the level of hype this game has received when there are far better puzzlers out there for both systems. I suppose it exemplifies modern and post-modern art but a video game this is not.
Echochrome will be available on PSN for download only in May though I don't know how much the game will cost. Personally, I wouldn't recommend anybody buy this. However, I do find it more suitable on the PSP than on the PS3. At least on the PSP, you can sit in the quad and have all your artsy fartsy friends play with you. As I said earlier, the PS3 and PSP versions are virtually identical, even graphics wise. The PS3 version does include a rather pointless rumble feature but lacks Sixaxis support, which would have added a bit to the game.

What Works:
-Interesting concept of a living MC Escher drawing
-Custom level creator for full version

What Doesn't Work:
-It's boring. Game has no point to it.
-Bland, uncolourful graphics. PS3 and PSP versions identical.
-Only one repetitivly dry audio track.
-Motion sensing would have made the PS3 version slightly more interesting.

Rating: 4 out of 10

Update: This game was made available May 1st for $9.99 on the Playstation Store. The cost is the same for both versions. Is it worth a lousy $10? Probably not.

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