Review / echochrome (PS3)

Every once in awhile a game comes along that is both extremely pleasant to play, as well as mind-numbingly difficult. The most popular game in recent memory that fits those criteria would be Portal — it’s a game that will make you pull your hair out, and yet you’ll enjoy every minute of it. Such is the case with echochrome. echochrome takes a vast number of liberties with its design and implementation of its gameplay mechanics, and will leave you feeling like there’s still plenty of freshness to be found in the medium of gaming.

Wait… what?

The very first thing that will grab your attention in echochrome is the completely muted color palette. You won’t be enjoying much color in this game so you’d better be a pretty big fan of black and white. From the title screen all the way through the 56 levels you’ll be seeing a white background, black lines, and the occasional additional shade of gray. Now, you may be thinking that this is a huge knock against the game, especially in this day of hi-def, normal mapped, colorfully explosive games, but it ends up being more a compliment to the game design than anything else. It will make you seriously think about how many games you’ve enjoyed solely for their graphical prowess. echochrome does away with all that shiny ‘crap’ and presents you with an amazingly enjoyable puzzler with absolutely zero frills.

My brain hurts

As you can imagine, any comparison with Portal is going to raise some serious eyebrows in terms of innovative and inventive game design, but I can assure you that echochrome will not disappoint.

The goal in each level is to find a way to different parts of them so you can collect your “echoes”. You have no direct control over your character, except to make him start or stop walking. Instead, you advance by having full control of the camera and moving it to manipulate the way the game world appears from different perspectives.

For example, in one level you may be presented with a single vertical platform, as well as two horizontal platforms that are positioned end-to-end, and you must get your character from one of the horizontal platforms to the other. The way you would go about this is to position the camera so that the single vertical platform blocks off the view of the gap between the two horizontal platforms, making it appear as though they’re connected. You then tell you character to move, who then walks right over the gap that you “know” is there, but since the camera cannot see it, it does not exist.

This may sound a bit confusing if you haven’t seen the game in action before, but you’ll get the hang of it within 3 minutes of playing the actual game, I promise. There’s a demo available on PLAYSTATION Network that will introduce you to the mechanics of the game as well as let you try out a couple of puzzles for yourself.