It’s All in What You See…
March 12, 2008 – Echochrome is one of those titles that you’ll either love or hate. It is a puzzle-style game where your goal is to lead a little sketch model through some insane looking puzzles by using perspective. The most interesting thing about this title is probably the fact that it doesn’t require any real action on your part; all you have to do is control the camera. But if that sounds simple to you, trust me it’s not. This game is most definitely a challenging puzzle game, make no mistake. But after spending some hands-on time with the Japanese version, it is pretty clear that the fun in this title comes from experimenting with the different perspectives and figuring out how to get everything just right.
The demo starts off by giving you the five laws of perspective. These are not laws in the traditional sense, however. There more like helpful hints. The first law has to do with the transitive properties of each stage. Basically if you can move your camera in such a way that your little figure appears to be on a different path, then that is the path that he is on. You can also connect paths by changing your camera so that a hole in a path is not visible. The second law has to do with falling. If you able to change your view so that it looks like something is directly below you, you will land on it. The third and fourth laws are somewhat similar to the first and deal with paths with a hole or gap. If you can’t see the hole or gap in the path, then it doesn’t exist and you can walk straight through. The final law has to do with jumping, and is probably the most useful of the five. It says that by changing your perspective, if you can position certain areas or paths above a trampoline, then you can jump to them.
After the demo gives you examples of these five laws (with a playable example of each), you are then able to play through a couple of puzzles that test how well you were paying attention during the tutorial. While it is difficult to articulate how these puzzles actually worked, it suffices to say that these puzzles are not something you look at and just “get.” For instance, when you’re looking at a puzzle where you have to fit together shapes, you might be able to look at the shapes and just know where they should go. But Echochrome isn’t like that. You’ll have to experiment with different perspectives and try your best to play around with the different stages until something works. And while this trial-and-error approach might seem a little frustrating to some, I think it is actually what makes this game fun and different. One thing is definitely for sure, you’ve never played a game like this before.
Another thing that makes Echochrome a lot different than other games out right now is how simplistic it looks. While a lot of people looked at a title like N+ as extremely simplistic, Echochrome takes simplicity to a new extreme. The only graphics to speak of are black lines. There is no color, no background, no environments, nothing. It is literally just a sketch model and lines. This minimalist approach really showcases the gameplay, and it really proves that there is indeed genius in simplicity. Besides the amazingly fun gameplay and the minimalist look, the demo also showed off a pretty incredible score. The music has a very classical feel to it, and is the perfect type of music to help you concentrate on those more difficult puzzles.
Echochrome definitely looks like it is going to be a great title. It will be available sometime later this year for both the PSP and for download via the PlayStation Network for the PS3. It has a completely new and fresh approach to puzzle gameplay, and its perspective-based approach to puzzle-platform gaming is a complete blast to play. Although there is no US release date yet, it is slated for release sometime in 2008. I have to say that I’m really excited for this one, especially after spending some hands-on time with the demo. Hopefully we’ll have an exact release date soon!
Sony@ E3: Echochrome impressions
July 12, 2007 – At Sony’s conference they debuted what Phil Harrison has termed the most graphically absent but fun game for Sony this year. Available through the PlayStation Network and on UMD for the PSP, the simplistically deceiving Echochrome looks like a mind bender that will not only exercise your brain, but make it sweat!
Instead of taking tired old puzzle games and only lightly changing them to create “new” games, Echochrome looks like it’s going to be a whole new puzzle experience. With extremely simplistic black and white lines for graphics, the game’s premise seems to be to lead a little stick man through a maze. But watching the footage at Sony’s press conference, it looks like there’s a little more here then simple mazes. You’ll have to guide your little man through strange and twisted landscapes made of simple black lines that the likes of only M.C. Escher could dream up. It’ll be your mission to twist and transform these drawings, while using small hidden portals or trampolines to get to the other end of the maze. For instance, if your stick man crosses a gap, he’ll fall.
If you twist the puzzle so that the gap is obscured by another “closer” maze segment, he’ll pass through it. The game is really something you have to see to believe. But the real key to this game seems to lie in its complex simplicity. It’s an oxymoron, but this game may be unconventional enough to warrant the extreme wording.
Sure, this game was probably the least visually pleasing element of Sony’s press conference today, but kudos to them for turning out a game that looks like it’s about substance and not style. I mean, this thing has literally no style. It’s all black, lines remember? But it promises a unique gaming experience, and is unlike anything else we’ve seen from Sony thus far. Sure Sony hasn’t really been a trailblazer in the puzzle genre, but this offering has shown that they plan on reaching out and really expanding their game genre library in the next few months.
No further details or a release date have been announced yet, but stay tuned for more information about Echochrome, coming soon to your PS3 and PSP.