Originally posted on the now defunct fwxd.net.
echochrome is a strange game for many reasons, not least the fact that it doesn’t understand English grammar. Its delivery to the consumer is just plain baffling, with Japanese and European gamers receiving a UMD copy containing over three hundred levels on top of separate PS3 and PSP download releases which contain just over fifty (different) levels. The Americas, on the other hand, are left hanging with only the downloadable releases, perhaps throwing caution into the wind as to whether or not the country that brought us the Big Mac would dare pick up the worst box art in the history of mankind.
Enough about the packaging though. The bizarre construction that is echochrome inside out continues throughout the game play itself. If you own a PlayStation Portable think about the quirky Japanese titles you've seen before, such as LocoRoco and Patapon, and then think of a much higher concept. echochrome, at it's core, is a puzzle game inspired by M. C. Escher's artwork. There are no high resolution graphics, guns, or explosions to be found here, only black line drawings on a white canvas.
The idea is simple. Guide your line art mannequin, who walks across the playing field taking left turns whenever he can, until you have collected all the black shadows (or echoes) of yourself, which stand at strategic, hard to reach locations. The concept sounds incredibly simple until you take into account echochrome's five laws. As the player you only have control of the camera, and the ability to turn the playing field; however the control this gives you is incredibly unique.
By changing the world's prospective, you change the world. If a hole is blocking your progression, simply move to an angle where an object blocks your view of it and the hole no longer exists. Moving to another platform is equally as ingeniously simple, requiring you to simply move the camera until it looks like two blocks are touching. Despite the real distance of height of the blocks, the platforms will join together until you reposition the camera again.
This brilliant twist on the puzzle formula, where every new level brings a new challenge in platform, echo, hole and jump platform positions, is incredibly unique and clever in concept, which is why it's such an incredible shame that the execution doesn’t match the idea.
The first issue with echocrome is the touchiness of the controls. Whether you’re using the PSP's nub, the PS3's analogue sticks or sixaxis control, the world of echocrome simply isn’t laxed enough for the input method being used. Sometimes simple platform connections become incredibly frustrating, leaving you irritated as to why they won’t join without absolute precision alignment.
This is without taking into account the fact that echocrome breaks it's own golden rules. Whether it's blocks that have seemingly connected that the mannequin wont cross, platforms that simply won't connect for absolutely no reason, or holes that you fall down despite being out of view, the construction of the game simply doesn’t meet the standard of the concept it was living up to.
You also have the issue of level variety. While each new level might create a new challenge that quickly rises to the level of down right frustrating, you never receive a feeling of progression, advancement or accomplishment. All the puzzles are available from the get go and like a SuDoKu book, there is no reason to complete them all unless you're so addicted that it becomes a simple compulsion.
Granted, the same people that love a good maths puzzle will get a kick from echocrome, but for the rest of us there simply isn't a game built around the idea. Add poor game mechanic construction to the mix, and you can't help but leave echocrome being sorely disappointed. Its presentation is fantastic, and the eerie classical sound track makes the game feel beautifully polished, which is why it’s such a shame that the final product didn't match what the creators envisioned.