Echochrome - import hands-on

Broadcasting IQ tests in black and white

A monochrome game where a stickman chases shadows around logic-defying structures hanging in space, you say? Yeah, that%26rsquo;ll be Echochrome. But that hasn%26rsquo;t stopped us from loving every head-scratching minute. The first hour or two playing Echochrome was mostly spent just enjoying the novelty of its concept.

You don%26rsquo;t control the walking/jumping/falling character as such; you control the level (or the camera, depending on how you look at it), rotating away until a path to a %26lsquo;shadow%26rsquo; character appears - effectively a stage waypoint or goal, which is novel. How the level appears is of paramount importance, as the whole game is based around Escher-like geometric structures, so what you see is less important than how it%26rsquo;s seen. Again, it%26rsquo;s a novel idea. A few hours in, it becomes apparent that these fresh ideas gel together really well (like therapy and chaise-lounges, probably), offering the sort of cerebral challenge that we%26rsquo;re tempted to describe as %26ldquo;the new Lemmings,%26rdquo; if Lemmings existed in a mind-bending 3D universe.

Sometimes, when your stickman is airborne after jumping, Echochrome%26rsquo;s methodology can become a bit haphazard - it often pays to rotate the structure randomly and quickly to find the desired landing spot. But in general, Echochrome rewards careful and considered control - via the PSP%26rsquo;s nubbin (or with the Sixaxis%26rsquo; motion sensor on the PSN version).

The game%26rsquo;s greatest strength is its level design, which tricks you into thinking that your task is impossible before revealing the solution of another %26lsquo;impossible figure%26rsquo;. It%26rsquo;s a shame that Echochrome is accompanied by a particularly insistent string quartet playing funeral music, but those are the breaks. Still, we haven%26rsquo;t played a game like this ever before.

The PSN version provides good value at a cheap price, while the full-fat PSP version has extra levels and modes but costs a packet. More so, connect to the Net and the game will automatically download another 100 puzzles every month - or so Sony claim. Either way, Echochrome is out on its own and thoroughly stimulating.

Apr 30, 2008

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