Puzzle Game 'Echochrome' Is Nothing New

By Connect2Mason reporter Daniel Sims

Every once in a while we get one of those games like Portal or Crush that stumbles upon an interesting idea and designs around it a simple game that manages to be playable and even addictive in its novelty. Sony’s Echochrome strives to be exactly that caliber of game.

Echochrome is a $10 downloadable puzzle game for the Playstation 3 and PSP that’s sort of like navigating your way through an M.C. Escher drawing. Through controlling the camera, players guide a mannequin through an obstacle course to reach other stationary mannequins in worlds that follow a few rules inspired by Escher’s works.

Essentially, everything in Echochrome is based on perspective. It’s a 3D game where only what is in front of you is true. If you position the camera to where an object covers up a hole or gap, that hole won’t exist. Position the camera so that two platforms on different levels seem connected, and they will be. If players fall through a hole they will land on what is directly beneath them not in the 3D space, but on the 2D plane. Players use these rules to circumnavigate obstacles guiding the mannequin through around 40 different puzzles unique to each version of the game.

While not as earth-shattering or addictive as a game like Portal, Echochrome has a similar sense of niftiness to it in that players can find interesting ways to mess around with the environment to solve problems. The puzzles also get seriously challenging which shows the developers’ ability to design around this gameplay mechanic.

Players can also create their own levels. What’s cool here is that you can take a pre-made puzzle and copy it straight into the editor to modify. The PS3 version allows players to upload custom puzzles to and download them from Playstation Network. Sony announced that there will be periodical official downloadable packs containing the best user-created puzzles for both versions.

Unfortunately, Echochrome doesn’t follow its own rules 100%. It’s not really detrimental to the functionality of the game, but players will notice some somewhat artificial limitations like how the camera can’t be positioned so that a level appears completely on its side. Despite this, the game still works overall and seems to really believe in its artistic inspiration.

Echochrome stands behind an aesthetic that is deliberately simple and elegant. The game announces itself with soft, dry female voice and accompanies the hard echoing footsteps of the mannequins with soothing violin music. One would think that a presentation like this would end up appearing as if it’s sticking its nose up at players but in practice it works as a game that’s trying to be artistic.

Bottom Line

In every way, Echochrome is one of those puzzle games that’s trying to be simple and really clever at the same time in the way Portal was, and for the most part it achieves this. Even though it’s not the most mind-shattering or innovative thing around, it’s probably worth your trouble for just $10.

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