Sony's Japan Studios have an impressive pedigree, being the creative minds behind 'Ape Escape' and 'LocoRoco'. But does it follow suit with 'Echochrome'?
This quirky puzzler centres on controlling the viewing perspective of each stage. The basic premise is that you have little men scattered among optically illusive shapes, which you need to direct to certain points. To do so, you have to move the viewing perspective around to make, or remove, the optical illusions.
While that may sound relatively basic, it becomes increasingly complex. In fact, 'Echochrome' is hard ? that's the first thing that will strike you right from the start.
If you enjoyed mind-benders like 'Portal' and 'Super Monkey Ball' and still want more, then you'll be in your element here. 'Echochrome' is for the gamer who seeks a tough challenge.
The game is divided into several modes. Freeform sees a random stage thrown at you, though one can always skip to the next level if you don't find it to your liking. Atelier sees you choose any of the game's stages and play through them, with the aim of getting the quickest time. Canvas is the level editor ? but more on that later.
'Echochrome's' graphics don't push the PSP's hardware in any way; in fact, it's extremely simple. Consisting of a few black-lined platforms and stick figures with a white background, the developers went for an alternative approach.
With the available power of the PSP it is both rewarding and disappointing to see that the developers decided to focus on style rather than the "push the system to the limits" approach. It's not the kind of game you would want to show to your buddies to display the PSP's capabilities, but it doesn't hide average gameplay behind beautiful graphics either. Which one is preferable, is up to you.
If gameplay is the most important to you, then you'll be happy to know that 'Echochrome' shines here.
They key to unlocking the puzzles are: "If it appears to be, then it is". A brilliant example of this is when one has a platform floating some distance away, but with a gap separating your character from it. To get to it, you simply rotate the view until it looks like the two platforms are one ? and your character will walk across to it as if they are.
The addition of launch pads that shoot your character into the air, and holes in the platforms through which your character can fall, only add to the brain-tingling experience.
Again, all of this seems very straightforward, but the learning curve is quite steep. And the tutorial jumps at you very quickly, so if you're preoccupied when it comes around, you'll miss it.
The engine powering Echochrome is very physics-heavy, and special mention must go to how well it performs. There is never any slowdown and at no point does the game feel broken, prompting you to shout "That should've worked!" at the screen.
As for the sound department, it follows the alternative, simple style of the graphics. Soft, classical background music accompanies the gameplay, a refreshing contrast to the guitar riffs and rapping that is to be found in other genres. While there is not much variety in the music, it really complements the gameplay well and never becomes an irritating distraction.
For those thinking that 'Echochrome' is merely another puzzler that will grow stale once beat, think again. For the American Playstation Network release, 'Echochrome' only consisted of a mere 56 puzzles. For the PSP release, however, there are a staggering 315 puzzles!
If this is still not enough, you can always dig into the level editor ? a very robust one at that. Budding level creators can upload their stages to the web and share them with friends. With a very active community, 'Echochrome' will have you keep coming back for the latest ingenious levels, extending the game's lifespan drastically.
'Echochrome' is a great example of what a handheld game is supposed to be like: Easy to pick up, easy to put down. The PSP has often been criticised for not having innovative games, but 'Echochrome' will surely help to silence such detractors.