Echochrome Review
Echochrome box art
System: PS3, PSP Review Rating Legend
Dev: Japan Studio (SCEJ) 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Sony 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: May 1, 2008 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Everyone 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
It's a Matter of Perspective
by Jason Lauritzen

It's hard to tell exactly when the puzzle genre became stagnant. Is there a book out there simply titled, "Puzzle Game Design 101"? If there were, it would probably contain guidelines that encourage the use of jewels, gems, or blocks; matching up number combinations of those objects; and steadily increasing the tempo of the music to keep the player's brain tweaked. A puzzle game is not defined by the aforementioned criteria - they are just scenery we associate with the landscape. The central idea is always problem solving; a puzzle game is an interactive brain teaser. The problem itself is the puzzle. Echochrome manages to ditch what we've come to know of puzzle games in the past and challenge what we can expect from them in the future.

Echochrome screenshot

Developed by Jun Fujiki, the technology behind the game is called the Objective Locative Environment Coordinate System. Worlds inspired by the work of M.C. Escher come to life via a series of pathways, staircases, and special tiles. Like any imaginary world this one has its own rules: what you see is literally what you get. By rotating the 3D space you manipulate 2D objects. What may look like nothing from one angle becomes something entirely new when viewed from a different perspective.

To help you adjust to this new kind of world the game immediately throws you into a tutorial teaching you the five laws of the game (all based on perspective): traveling, landing, existence, absence, and jump. Traveling is the most basic and essential. By aligning two parallel surfaces they connect, forming one continuous object. For example, two pathways may be on the screen, one seemingly above the other. By shifting the camera you can merge them into one longer pathway. The principle of existence works in a similar way. You may see two paths that are not connected and one longer series of blocks hanging off to the side. By flinging the camera around and placing the series of blocks in front of the two paths, the game assumes that the gap that once existed is gone.

Echochrome screenshot

The other laws revolve around the game's two kinds of tiles: black (pits) and white (jump pads). If your character walks into a pit he may fall, but if the camera is tilted properly he will land safely on a pathway. The jump pads launch your character into the air, almost sending him into an unending white void. However, like in every other scenario, the camera is key: as you character jumps, you swing the camera around and he will safely land, provided there is a platform available. To avoid these tiles you can use the law of absence. If you see a pit on your current path, you can flip the camera till a pathway above extends over the hole, allowing your character safe passage - if the camera doesn't see the pit it's not there.

With a command of these subjective, camera-based rules under your belt, your central role in the game is revealed: protector of a wireframe mannequin that traverses the game's erratic puzzles. The goal of this character is to touch the echoes (blinking silhouettes) that litter the stage. Once they have all been touched by your character, the puzzle is cleared. There's a catch though: you don't control the character's movement at all. Instead, all you can do is speed up its movement or pause to think. The character will always move forward on its current path. The majority of your work is done through rotating the camera to make sure his passage is continually safe.

Echochrome screenshot

Screenshots / Images
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