A monochrome game where a stickman chases shadows around logic-defying structures hanging in space, you say? Yeah, that’ll be Echochrome. But that hasn’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’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 ‘shadow’ 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’s seen. Again, it’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’re tempted to describe as “the new Lemmings,” if Lemmings existed in a mind-bending 3D universe.
Sometimes, when your stickman is airborne after jumping, Echochrome’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’s nubbin (or with the Sixaxis’ motion sensor on the PSN version).
The game’s greatest strength is its level design, which tricks you into thinking that your task is impossible before revealing the solution of another ‘impossible figure’. It’s a shame that Echochrome is accompanied by a particularly insistent string quartet playing funeral music, but those are the breaks. Still, we haven’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