Escher would be proud…
In this day and age games are all about graphics and radical gameplay; well, the latter may be more of a 90’s thing, but at least that’s what it seems like people are culling for these days. On hardware that’s capable of pushing visuals to near-lifelike quality is echochrome, a simple puzzler that uses perspective for mind-bending gameplay. So, while many clamor for more intricate, visually stimulating content, know that echochrome offers some of the most engaging, challenging gameplay through an extremely subtle presentation.
With echochrome, there’s not much detail to discuss since the game has a simple premise: Traverse objects and platforms in free-space to track down “echoes,” and return to where you started. The idea is straightforward, but actually accomplishing the task can prove extremely challenging. You play as a wireframe mannequin, but instead of controlling the doll directly, it walks on its own. It’s up to you to manipulate the perspective to line up elements on the screen in order to connect platforms that are otherwise disjointed, on different planes or nowhere near each other, and to use holes and jump-pads to your advantage.
To accomplish this task you’re first introduced to the laws of echochrome, namely: Perspective travel, perspective existence, perspective landing, perspective absence and perspective jump. After the brief tutorial, you’re free to explore the world of echochrome in three different ways.
First up is Freeform mode which plays much like arcade action in any adventure game. Randomly, you’re given one puzzle out of the 56 already preloaded in the download. It’s possible to choose the difficulty-level prior to starting each puzzle; with difficulties ranging from A thru G (A being the easiest, and G being the hardest). Also, through the Playstation Network, it’s possible to load puzzles created by gamers, chosen by the developers. Freeform play is a great way to explore the minds of fellow gamers who have created incredibly intricate, unique puzzles.
If you would rather choose your puzzle, then Atelier mode is the way to go. The aforementioned difficulty levels (A-G) are set up as courses in this mode. The goal is to complete each puzzle in as little time as possible, but if you take too much time, your game ends. You can either play each course, consisting of eight puzzles each, as a whole, or you can tackle each puzzle on its own. The nature of the game creates a situation of endless gameplay, as you try to beat your previous record. The only downside, there isn’t much of a difference between Atelier and Freeform, except you have a ticking clock in the upper-left corner; a little variety would have been nice.
Finally, you have Canvas mode which allows you the opportunity to make any kind of puzzle that you can fit in a 38x38x38 environment. Creating puzzles uses the same perspective mechanic as playing them, which can be a bit frustrating. You’re required to constantly change the perspective to gauge where you’re putting one of six different pieces. It may be just as much a challenge to create the puzzles as it is to play them, but as we’ve seen from other user-created examples, it’s entirely possible to create anything from complex mazes to platforms that line up to create an animal’s face in a certain perspective.
Simplicity, for the win…
echochrome is a game which honors free spirit and user-created content. The MC Escher inspired world plays on perspective and allows for gameplay that is made out of what you see. Eventually your brain will warm up to the perspective-based system, but there are puzzles for everyone to enjoy. With the ability to skip through any puzzle in Freeform, you’ll most likely find one that is appropriate for you; the setup makes for an intellectually, addictive party game.
With a basic presentation (only black and white color scheme), eerily soothing-yet-exuberant violin music in the background, and simple commentary by a wispy female voice, echochrome is an amazing example where intriguing gameplay can outshine any other game elements. This spatial puzzler plays on perspectives which yield results that sometimes don’t make much sense, but the freedom to make multiple paths ensures each puzzle has a great amount of life to it. Added to the already amazing puzzles, is the ability to create your own. Although it’s a bummer you can’t download and saver others’ puzzles, for 10 dollars, you’re more than getting your money’s worth here.
+ Perspective gameplay
+ User-created puzzles
Oh, hell no:
- Can’t save others’ puzzles
- Some perspectives don’t always make sense
- Canvas mode a little frustrating with perspective mechanics