Video Game Rentals Delivered

Echochrome (PSN)

David Yun (PSN Gamertag - Vawce) David Yun (PSN Gamertag - Vawce): (contact-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2009-04-23 14:51:07

Echochrome (PSN) - Rank B

Developer: JapanStudio
Publisher: SCEA
Date: 5/1/08

Also available for PSP

For all the ballyhooed processing power of the PlayStation 3, it's become a home for some of the "indie-est" sort of games. Echochrome is a black and white art house game that the handheld PSP could (and in fact, does) handle without breaking a sweat. Clearly inspired by the works of M.C. Escher, the goal in Echochrome is to tilt the camera so that twists in perspective will allow a pedestrian to reach seemingly impossible destinations.

In Echochrome, seeing is believing. If you align two beams to appear connected on the same plane, they are. The pedestrian will travel from the edge of one right onto the other, as long as you tilt the perspective to hide the gap.

That's the first of Echochrome's "five laws". The second involves falling; if you can align a hole in a beam to appear as if directly above another, the pedestrian will safely drop down to it. The third and fourth laws permit you to eliminate gaps and holes by obscuring them behind pillars. If you don't see it, it's no longer there. The fifth is the converse of the holes; jump pads allow the pedestrian to reach ostensibly faraway beams as long as you can twist the perspective so it appears directly above.

That's a lot of words to describe a simple, visceral experience. Suffice it to say that Echochrome is brilliantly conceptualized. Many of its puzzle stages will stab you directly in the brain, as your mind buckles under the strain of realigning your frame of reference. Echochrome is like those visual tricks in Psych 101 textbooks, where you're staring at a picture that can be interpreted as a face or as two candles, only while high on barbiturates. With tons of stages plus a level editor to create more to share, Echochrome can provide a wealth of stimulating brain cramps.

Unfortunately, Echochrome isn't perfect. The actual execution isn't as smooth as its driving concept. A good puzzle game ought to have precise, simple controls that click simply into place. The struggle should be in the mind of the player, not in finicky controls. As you tilt the levels along the three axes, the experience of actually executing your intended ideas onto the screen can deteriorate into fiddly trial and error awkwardness, even if you have a workable solution in your head.

Echochrome epitomizes the sort of unconventional gaming experience that would never have reached a meaningful audience before the days of smaller downloadable titles. For all of Sony's questionable missteps, they are fostering a library of provocatively interesting curiosities on the PlayStation Network. Echochrome isn't entirely successful, but a game this different and fascinating is worth checking out.

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