PS2 REVIEW: ALTER-ECHO

Alter Echo is a good game but the developers made one serious mistake. By making the game so short and with no multi-player or any serious replay value, Outrage has created the perfect rental.

I played Alter Echo at E3 2002 and found it to be an interesting game with lots of promise. Only one level was playable at the time and there was some half-naked bimbo promoting the upcoming appearance of Bruce Campbell so I was somewhat distracted. Now that I've had my hands on this game for a couple of days I can see that it's lived up to its potential. It's packed with action and combat and has an interesting premise that marries the storyline with the gameplay.

Such sci-fi games always have to take place in the future. This way you don't have to provide rational scientific explanations for everything. That's just the way things are in the future, deal with it or watch golf.

Nevin is a shaper. He's one of the few talented individuals that is capable of using a substance called plast to create a variety of objects including weapons, armor, bridges, walls, vehicles and soldiers. On a distant planet, a more powerful plast substance is discovered by another shaper named, Paavo. This new substance is called echoplast and has overwhelmed Paavo to the brink of insanity as he employs it to take over the world. The game takes shape as Nevin takes on Paavo and his army of echoplast creations.

The entire planet is one big echoplast creation. It behaves like a living entity and is in a constant state of change. Using an echoplast suit of his own, Nevin is able to fight fire with fire. The suit literally has a mind of its own and helps Nevin out in difficult situations. Each level consists of puzzles to solve and enemies to combat. Beginning with a suit of armor and a sword, the suit, now known only as Echo, is capable of more powerful offensive and defensive features.

You can take on a gun form or a stealth form, which will render you virtually invisible, and you can toggle among the various forms. Focusing on an intricate combo system, you will be awarded plasm for making kills and linking combos. Plasm may be used to upgrade your suit. Faster moves, new attacks and more powerful armor and weapons can all be obtained. Combos are well-structured and relatively easy to use. You have to nail down your timing to get a few in before the enemy drops to the ground or counters with an attack. A training mode that provides you with enough practice using your suit and its different configurations should get you out and about but it all takes place before you acquire new upgrades. I would rather that the game automatically boot you into a section of the training mode when you acquire a new upgrade. At least the training would be fresh in your mind. It also acts as a spoiler. These features cannot be obtained in-game until a required plasm level has been reached. I'd prefer to deal with the suit when I get it.

Everything has a slightly glossy look to it which is more pronounced in the Xbox version. That's because everything is made out of this plast stuff. Level designs are imaginative and have a surreal appearance to them. Sometimes perspectives are difficult to judge because the shading is not very detailed and there's no point of reference for some of the objects and environments. Despite looking wide open the game is very linear. Puzzles will prevent or admit you into the next segment. They're not very difficult but they're time-based so you have to think fast.

The music is reminiscent of an afternoon at the planetarium. Voiceacting is well done and there's plenty of cocky dialogue that rounds out the hero's personality. He's not as witty as Spider-Man but he's got a lot more going for him than the Hulk.

Rent Alter Echo and see if the echoplasm doesn't envelop you too.

System: PS2
Dev: Outrage Games
Pub: THQ
Released: Aug 2003
Players: 1
Review by Stew XX
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
4
GRAPHICS
4
CONTROL
4
MUSIC/FX
3.5
VALUE
1