SYSTEM
PSX

PRICE
$49.99

DEVELOPER
From Software

PUBLISHER
Agetec

RELEASE
07/99

Echo Night Review

By: John Doe


Adventure gamers unite! Echo Night fills the craving for a good old fashioned adventure that is long on puzzles and storyline but comes up short in the graphics department. If you are looking to exercise your mind rather than your thumb for awhile than look no further than this entertaining and macabre romp through time.


Highs:
Lows:

About 10 years ago I was hooked on Shadowgate on the NES. That was my first experience with an "adventure" game. I don't know why it appealed to me so much, but I couldn't and wouldn't put the game down until it was finished. That game gave way to Deju Vu (NES), then to Maniac Mansion (PC), Maniac Mansion 2: Day of the Tentacle (PC) and Full Throttle (PC), a game that I believe is one of the best adventure games ever released.

So I guess you could say I like these adventure games. There is something about walking around and not really doing anything that really appeals to me. Me in Wal-Mart is like an adventure game. I'm not in any danger, but I have to find these items on a list that the evil sorceress (my lovely wife) gave me or suffer the horrifying consequences (getting that look that says, "Can't you do anything right?") I've received a clue from the pimply faced elf in the blue apron as to the whereabouts of the 2 Cheeked Scroll (toilet paper) and now must locate it, being sure to avoid the dank pit of abuse where the violent monsters lurk (the tool department). Can I get there without being lured in to the Land of the Lost Souls (the video game dept.) or the Feast of Cold Fries and High Prices (McDonalds)? So I dunno, I guess I can identify with the poor shmucks in these games.

Echo Night is such a game. You character is never seen on screen. You don't lug around a rocket launcher. You simply look at your surroundings, pick up objects that you find or acquire through contact with other characters and then use said objects on something that looks appropriate. Sounds boring when you put it that way, but I bet the Austin Powers script ain't funny on paper either. An adventure game like Echo Night is an RPG without the mess. You'll talk to a lot of characters for clues, look through a lot of drawers and closets for items and be addicted to solving these puzzles that will get you further in to the twisted story.

Echo Night's plot will take you all over time. You'll start in 1937 and head backwards from there, trying to uncover the mysterious disappearance of your father. Along the way you'll find yourself on a train, a castle, a mine and among other areas, a doomed ocean liner named the Orpheus that sank in 1913. When you get to the Orpheus, everyone you'll run into will be already dead. It's up to you to save their souls. As far as plots go, Echo Night's can be very interesting and disturbing. It's never truly terrifying, but it can startle you, especially when....oh why ruin the suspense? That's like telling you there definitely is something from beyond the grave hiding in your closet. Wouldn't it just be better to go in and look for yourself tonight, when you hear the clawing?

Since Echo Night is pretty bland graphically, it has to fall back on to the story and to the puzzles. I'm happy to report that the story (takes place over a few eras) kept me glued to the television. The story won't make much sense at first due to the instantaneous time travel your character is subjected to. It's almost as though he loses consciousness and wakes up in a new era. You'd think he was seeing the events as a passive witness until the characters start to interact with him. That's the beauty of Echo Night. It's always throwing new scenes at you that move you just a little closer to making some sense out of your involvement.

The puzzles in the game are your standard adventure game fare. Find a key? Pick it up and take it to that looked door that you discovered. I was a little underwhelmed by some of the puzzles. They were a little too easy at times, which isn't such a bad thing especially if you are new to this sort of game. I imagine the puzzle difficulty is the bane of the adventure game designers existence. Are the puzzles too easy or too hard? Are the gamers stupid or relatively intelligent? Answer that last one by asking how many Mortal Kombat games have been sold, and you'll see the dilemma that these developers face. The one cool aspect of adventure games is that no matter how easy a puzzle is, you get to feel like a genius for about 2 minutes. "Hey, wait a minute. Instead of using that burnt map of the underground caves to try and open the door, maybe I should try that key I just found? It worked! Oh my God, it actually worked! Ha! And all my teachers said I'd be a failure! Uh oh, now how do I get through this door? Should I try the map again or maybe this fish?" In all fairness, Echo Night's puzzles will be relatively easy to the most diligent of players. You'll have to open every drawer, look under the tables, move furniture... you name it. Do that, and you'll solve your puzzle. If you are not prepared to really hunt around, then Echo Night isn't the game for you. Perhaps I could interest you in a little game I like to call Mortal Kombat... (Evil Laughter)

The control in Echo Night is way too sluggish when you start out. First things first, turn up the game walking and turning speed to the fastest setting. Echo Night offers a crouch mode (press and hold the circle button) which you'll need to crawl through small openings or look under tables and beds. Another feature which helps to increase the deviousness of some of the puzzles is the ability to pick up certain objects like chairs and carts and move them about the room. Nice touch. Echo Night doesn't use the analog control which is odd, but the vibration feature is utilized for when you are attacked.

The voice acting is decent enough but I found it odd that some characters have speaking parts and others do not. Now, I am playing a version I received from the Agetec guys at E3 and I was told that it was a reviewable copy so that's all I can go on until I see a storebought copy. I was also a tad thrown by the delivery of the lines. I know most of the characters are in despair but they really do all sound very alike. They've all got that Steven Wright (the comedian) depressed angst about them. One guy even sounds like him.

Musically Echo Night can be best described as depressing but optimistic. I really enjoyed it's use of music for certain events, although you will notice the real lack of music throughout the whole game. But do you really want music pumped through an entire adventure game? How annoying would that get, especially when stuck on a part for a long period of time. The music system works a lot like Tomb Raider in that it tends to show up when there is an enemy or a significant event. I thought it was extremely effective that way. The music is unsettling and not just because most of the score is played in minor keys. There is a real longing present in the music that desires to be resolved, which compliments the plot to a tee.

Complaint Dept. Not too many too report. Since I had no documentation on the game, I was completely unsure how to save my progress. Imagine my surprise when it took me quite a while to get to the first save game point which is accessed by picking up the red telephones. Luckily you are in no real danger of dying at that point, but due to the puzzles you may be stuck for awhile (although I'd doubt it) and have to leave your PlayStation on until you reach that first save game point on the Orpheus. The save game feature takes two slots on your memory card, so make sure this is available before starting on your adventure. You've been warned. My only other complaint is that every once in awhile there is a puzzle that is uncharacteristically super difficult. You'll have to hunt through the meanings of what you have learned and look at every object, read every book and all of the notes in your possession for clues. If that fails, well then just look at the walkthrough I've written for you on this site. I'm proud to say that I only contacted the Agetec guys once for help, and they even sent me their own uncompleted walk through, which I only used once. Honest!

One of the aspects of the game that I just loved was coming across the casino room in the doomed ship. You can play a slot machine or craps at first. If you win up to $100 bucks then you can try your hand at blackjack. These casino games were totally addicting and added a fun element to the game (win over $200 and you can save the souls of the poor spirits trapped in this casino). It was the icing on the cake for me. You'll actually forget you are playing an adventure game, until the casino closes and you are thrown back in to the hallway with that evil demon just waiting for you...

Echo Night may not appeal to all players, but it's easy enough to get into and interesting enough to keep you hooked. Action fans may wonder what all the fuss is about, but remember that this game is something different. It's brain over brawn and that's a good thing every once in a while. If you are looking to feel like Sherlock Holmes for a few evenings than Echo Night is your game. I highly recommend a date with this title when it hits stores in July.

OVERALL
8.5

GRAPHICS
6.5

CONTROL
9.0

MUSIC/FX
8.0

FRUSTRATION
6.0

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