Many may remember the 3D puzzle platformer known as Echochrome that was released in 2008 for the Playstation 3 and PSP. It dazzled players with its simplistic art style but complex level design and perspective based gameplay. Now Echoshift has made its way on to the PSP. At a glance Echoshift may look like a straight sequel since it contains a very similar look including the same mannequin as the main character. The similarities end there. This game is a spin off of the franchise.
Instead of having players navigate 3D levels through changing the camera’s perspective they are presented with 2D levels which can only be completed by taking full advantage of the new mechanic: periodically rewinding time. Here are the HOTs and NOTs of Echoshift.
Echoshift has succeeded in creating some truly addicting and challenging gameplay just as its predecessor did so well. The game tasks players with the objective of going from Point A to Point B. Sounds simple enough right? Well be prepared to exercise your brain. Players must figure out how to traverse the level and overcome obstacles in order to reach the exit. Before each level is started it can be overlooked by scrolling around it so that you can see what lies ahead and can prepare accordingly. However getting to the exit can not be accomplished upon one run. This is where the game’s core mechanic comes into play. Depending on the complexity of the level about to be attempted there will be a timer which will range from 20 to 60 seconds. The player must try to clear obstacles or set up their current “cast” to help aid the next one.
Once the timer hits zero the player is sent back to the beginning and must start the journey over again, but this time an echo will be going through the same motions that were done on the previous playthrough. For example, on the first run a player clicks a blue button to activate some blue blocks which fill in a gap leading to the door. After the time rewinds the echo will go click the button and the current cast being controlled can now cross the new bridge as their former self activates the path. This is a very simple scenario and does not represent the mind-racking nature that the game offers throughout its levels.
The levels span A through H with each letter providing 7 levels. Obviously the levels in H are more difficult than those found in A. They provide new challenges unseen before and requires different strategies to be thought up. Switches are a common occurance in early levels, but it will quickly become complicated as you progress. Squares turn to spikes when the player is not facing them, blocks fall on top of the mannequin which can only be countered by button mashing X a certain amount of times, levels blackout completely, dissolving platforms, and switches that require a player standing on them to activated. These are only a few of the challenges that await the player in later levels. This does not take into account the stairs leading to different levels, holes (stationary and mobile), jump pads, and other tools used for navigation. 9 casts are available for use at the beginning of each level, but using all of them will only carry a reward of one star.
To obtain two or three stars players must keep their cast count inside the specified brackets shown during the loading screen. One level might state that three stars can only be obtained by using two casts while another may allow the use of up to four. It all depends on how intense the level design becomes. Completing a level using one more cast than required can easily cause that “so close!” feeling and will result in large amounts of replay to snag that three star rating. It becomes an addiction to beat previous cast use and time taken.
Echoshift sports a great deal of gameplay. With seven levels packed into each of the eight categories (A-H), totalling 56 levels, the amount of time being invested can really start to add up. Some claim to have taken between 8 and 10 hours to complete, but that was only going through the cast mode. Each level has 3 modesto be played through on which brings the level count to 168 if you count each variation as a new level. Cast is the basic mode that most will become familiar with right away. In this mode the only task is to reach the exit by using no more than 9 casts. Key is the second mode unlocked. There is a key placed somewhere in the level and it must be grabbed before the exit can be used. The final mode is Illusion. This mode acts kind of like a time trial where each cast used has the ability to pause time using the R button for up to 3 seconds. As insignificant as it seems it really changes up the game and makes you strive for better completion times.
Now just because you complete A-H does not mean that the game is over. After the H category there is another one labeled DL. This is for downloadable content. There are 7 levels in this category as well and they promise to really strain your brain. If you purchase the game before April 1st, then you will be presented with a small gift: all 7 DLC levels for free.
Chances are that most players will not try to beat the game in one sitting. Actually anyone who could finish all levels and modes in one sitting must have unheard of levels of patience and ambition. This is a game that you can pick up and play for mere minutes or get lost in for hours. It fits whatever time frame you have available at the moment and promises that you will definitely enjoy yourself (unless you become frustrated easily).
It was disappointing to see the lack of any online features that Echochrome had included. Level editors, the ability to download created levels, and leaderboards are all absent from Echoshift. The return of the level editor would have allowed players to create and share puzzles. I am sure it would have been extremely successful since LittleBigPlanet has the same feature and it is loved by most. The level editor is a feature I can understand being omitted though, but leaderboards should have been in the game. Players are already striving to complete levels with minimal cast use and a speedy ending time. Certainly those who put their mind to the test and achieve great results would want to see their accomplishments pitted against other fellow players. This would add a greater level of competition.
The price of Echoshift is $14.99. In my opinion this is not a bad price, but I can see how some players might view it as too high. If you are not planning on squeezing out every ounce of gameplay or do not wish to face the great challenges of the later levels, then of course fifteen bucks is steep. Others might be put off because Echochrome was a full PS3 game and sold for only $9.99. In comparison some might see that as unfair.
Echoshift provides players with a unique and challenging game. Its design is simplistic, but the execution can really ramp up in complexity. Players can choose the pace they want to progress at and it is welcoming. The content provided is expansive and is satisfying as a feeling of accomplishment engulfs the player as another three star rating is earned. The lack of some online components seen in the previous game might be a disappointment, but those looking for a good challenge should definitely try out this game.