PC REVIEW: ECHO: SECRETS OF THE LOST CAVERN

Echo: Secrets of the Lost Cavern is a decent adventure game, filled with a variety of puzzles set in prehistoric times. It's the only prehistoric premise that I'm aware of in this genre and although it doesn't exploit the theme to its full potential it's still unique and begs for numerous sequels to fully explore this premise.

Think of it, a game set in this epoch is perfectly suited for exploration and puzzle solving since this is the beginning of mankinds' development. Every situation back then required some kind of puzzle solving since there was no mass communication among clans of helpful discoveries. This was a time where if you couldn't think for yourself you had little chance for survival. Echo: Secrets of the Lost Cavern gives us a glimpse into that era but it doesn't immerse us in it. Its roots don't stray far from the generic adventure formula.

Some nice touches such as the first person perspective manage to keep our minds from thinking that this is just a game - at least temporarily. The puzzles relate well to the environment and the situation but they lack originality. Instead, these are just run-of-the mill puzzles adapted to suit the prehistoric theme. They are still fun and will challenge gamers of intermediate skill but there's nothing that you will want to tell the world about when you're finished playing. Overall the game is short and void of replay value. If you're thinking that it's got the making of a good rental, you're analytical skills are well suited to this genre.

Arok is a young cave dweller who takes shelter in a mysterious cavern from an aggressive lion. Inside the cave are magnificent paintings created by a magical painter named Klem whom Arok met in his childhood. Klem has the ability to bring these painting to life and it's here that you will encounter many puzzles that in other games would be relegated to intricate mechanized creations. Arok's curiosity is piqued and he wants to find Klem and become his apprentice. But first he must solve the mysteries laid out before him.

Exploring his primitive environment, Arok will collect various items to store in his inventory which he will combine to create new tools such as spears, slingshots and water-carrying vessels. He will have to learn how to defend himself from wild animals in addition to learning how to hunt them for food. Making a fire and learning how to fish are skills that are invaluable for his survival in such an unforgiving environment.

At least we're not stuck in a cave for the entire game. We get to go out and play in bush. The different environments are almost picture perfect but they also feel like photos as there isn't a lot of ambient animation. You will run into various characters and creatures but just about anything that moves will become part of your experience. There's very little wasted animation.

The voiceovers should be nothing more than some grunts, whistles and clicks instead of the occasional fully-formed word these characters utter. Some of these cavemen have better vocabularies than your typical Saskatchewan farmer. The soundtrack is composed of a blending of sparse musical meanderings and the songs of Mother Nature such as raspy winds and the tranquil sounds of water droplets.

Echo is a well-designed game from a technical standpoint. It's rock solid, easy to learn and guaranteed to tax your brain from time to time without resorting to vague solutions to puzzles. It plays it too safe and as a results is just a little too familiar and uninspired.

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System: PC
Dev: Kheops Studio
Pub: Adventure Co.
Release: Aug 2005
Players: 1
Review by Dan
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
3.5
GRAPHICS
3.5
CONTROL
4.5
MUSIC/FX
3.0
VALUE
2.5