As a game reviewer I see many games that are very derivative or are outright knock-offs of other games. Even entire genres often give birth to one indistinguishable game clone after another – a problem that seems to be especially rampant among puzzle games. However, sometimes a game comes along that is so original and creative that it completely captures your attention and makes you wonder why it wasn't done before. echochrome is just such a game.
echochrome could almost be described as an interactive M.C. Escher gallery. Each puzzle features a set of blocks and stairways that create a three dimensional puzzle that can be rotated in any direction. A walking mannequin is placed on one of the blocks and your job is to direct it to another location on the puzzle marked by a shadow of your mannequin. I use the word 'direct' because you have no control over the mannequin – it will continue to walk along the block until it reveals an edge or encounters a hole or bounce pad. You do however have control over the rotation and orientation of the puzzle and getting the mannequin from Point A to Point B s a matter of perspective, literally.
|The world of echochrome|
Rotate the puzzle so that a gap is hidden from your view and it is as if it doesn't exist and the mannequin will walk right across. Rotate the puzzle so that it appears that two blocks are connected in the new perspective and they will effectively be connected. Holes will send the mannequin towards the bottom of the screen and bounce pads towards the top. The mannequin will then land on whatever block has been rotated below the hole or above the pad. The concepts are simple, but some of the puzzles can be quite fiendish.
It almost goes without saying that if you have trouble with spatial thinking, echochrome will be a nightmare for you. Even if you can see things in three space in your mind's eye there are times when the puzzles will tie your thoughts into knots. However there is a substantial amount of satisfaction when things just 'click' and you figure out the series of moves to get the mannequin to its destination. Of course there are times when you get through part of a puzzle by some happy accident without any kind of clue of how you did what you just did. Overall, it's all a challenging but very rewarding experience. If there is a downside to it outside of the occasional frustration at yourself for feeling stupid it's that the game can sometimes be too sensitive to alignment. You'll know what you need to do but you'll have to fiddle with the controls a bit before the game acknowledges that you know what you're doing by aligning things just so.
In an age when graphics can make or break, echochrome proves that there is still beauty in simplicity. The puzzles are all simple black and white line drawings, but suit the gameplay perfectly. Rotating the line art puzzles while the classical music soundtrack plays in the background works to create a zen-like atmosphere that calms the body while working out the brain. It's all a very unique and enjoyable experience and is highly recommended.
In The End, This Game Hath Been Rated: 94%. echochrome is the epitome of great puzzle design in that a few simple rules are used to create a challenging and rewarding experience.