ECHO: Secrets of the Lost Cavern Review

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Graphics: 8.0
Sound : 9.0
Gameplay : 9.0
Multiplayer : N/A
Overall : 8.7
Review by Sallie Anglin
Inspired by the discovery of the Cave of Lascaux in 1940, Echo: Secrets of the Lost Cavern takes the player on a mystical journey through the Paleolithic Age. The player becomes Arok, a young Cro-Magnon man, who after finding the markings left by an old friend and painter named Klem, sets out on an odyssey to find the mysterious artist. Kheops Studio guides the player through a forgotten world, invoking magical realism, folklore and facts to create an adventure game that is both entertaining and educational.

After Arok finds himself in a small cavern, he lights a fire and reveals to the player the simple yet majestic beauty of Paleolithic art. The artwork is strikingly similar to those drawings and reliefs found in the actual Cave of Lascaux in France. Echo’s artists chose to rely on colors that might realistically appear in cave sketches, such as red, brown, black, and orange hues. Shadows from the cave stones and Arok are nicely and realistically rendered and Echo’s soft lighting effects lend to the mysterious tone the cave environments project. At times, however, torchlight casts awkward shadows and light upon objects. In one scene, a torch lights a young girl’s face, forming blotchy red and orange hues on her skin, which are neither realistic nor aesthetically appealing. The cave’s three dimensionality is often distorted as well—it is sometimes difficult to tell the depth of the caverns.

The attention to detail practiced by the artists provides the world and its inhabitants with continuity and wholeness. For example, Tika’s hair is braided with tiny shells, and the floors of the caves are covered with broken bones, vertebrae and rocks. The frescos are impressive, showering the stone walls with bears, fleeting stags and unicorns. Arok, however, seems very alone. Although there are a few butterflies gliding through the sky and some horses grazing in the distance, very little else moves in the verdant forest. The outside environments lack movement, which is unfortunate since the vegetation is so visually dense and rich. Despite these concerns, Echo is visually appealing and inviting, accurately creating an enchanting yet realistic universe.

Echo’s music is also unique. The score is comprised of an exceptional blend of lithophones, shells, percussion, and various other instruments to create a tribalesque auditory experience. The sounds of birds chirping are incorporated into the music, and woodwind instruments suggest to the player the mysteries of the prehistoric forest. The atmospheric sounds only enhance the visual world. From the gush of the rushing stream and the slurp of chamomile tea, to the songs of birds and howls of wolves, the world feels both serene and intemperate like a Wordsworthian poem in which “every flower enjoys the air it breathes.”

The graphics and sound are both artistically unique and refreshing, but in order for an adventure game to be successful, the audiovisual elements must complement a strong narrative, and in this game they do. Echo’s story is optimistic and enthralling. This is a story of mysticism and wonder—a story that younger gamers will certainly enjoy—and it extends the magical realism that already penetrates the game. Arok, the player’s character, must overcome a number of logical and artistic puzzles in order to arrive at his destination—the Great Hall of the Bulls. On his pilgrimage, Arok must battle a lioness, find something to soothe his growling stomach, and outwit a bear blocking his path. Finally, once he reaches the cave where Klem and his apprentice are working, he has more obstacles to overcome. It is here that he discovers what his real purpose is.

Echo presents the player with a variety of original puzzles and obstacles, most of which will inspire the artist in anyone willing to venture through Arok’s mystical world. The nubile hunter/gatherer must first find his way out of the cave’s labyrinth. The puzzles are integrated into the environments and aren’t antithetical to the story, the historical setting, or the game’s aesthetic. For example, in one puzzle, Arok has to depict a fresco of stags in such a way that they appear to be one stag running through a stream. Many of the puzzles require Arok to complete the paintings on the cave’s walls. The puzzles vary in their objectives, and they engage both the logical and artistic sides of the brain. Some of the places on the puzzles that are interactive are a bit too small, though, which can engender a little frustration with the mechanics since you might be spending more time than you’d like guiding the cursor over the screen to find these hotspots.

Echo is a traditional point-and-click adventure and its well-designed gameplay pays homage to the many supreme titles in this genre. The user interface is simple and easy to use, and it doesn’t disrupt the player’s immersion into the narrative. The objectives screen helps guide the player without providing too much information or spoilers, and there is also a handy inventory where you can store any gathered materials. Throughout the game, the player has to construct a number of items that require a construction zone. A large amount of guesswork is involved in choosing which items to combine to create the final product, which can also get a bit frustrating.

Perhaps the most unique addition toEcho is its documentary database. This collection contains factual information on the Paleolithic Age, including technology, tools, art, and information on the Cave of Lascaux. During the course of the narrative, a symbol flashes on the screen informing the player that something in the documentary database has just been introduced into the story. This addition makes Echo more than a game, it’s also a collection of knowledge; this is certainly a game that children (and any adults who’d like to increase their knowledge of the Paleolithic) will benefit from in a variety of ways.

On September 8, 1940, Marcel Ravidat threw some rocks into a hole that his dog Robot had found. The echoes the stones made revealed a hidden cavern decorated with the stories of our ancestors. From this discovery, we’ve learned more about the Paleolithic man, culture and society. And from this, perhaps one day, we, Arok, and his friends, can learn to make the spirits of The Great Hall dance.