May 29, 2008

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Echochrome (PS3)
JAPAN Studio, May 1, Rated E
By Glenn "Escher" Given production@hippopress.com

At last, Oscar Reutersvärd, my Swedish impossible-object-designing nemesis, the time for our final confrontation is nigh!

Echochrome, downloadble from the PlayStation network, is a sparse yet mind-bending puzzler. Players rotate Penrose Triangle-inspired scaffolds using the orientation-sensitive controller to allow a Lemming-like mannequin to navigate to each level’s finish line. Gaps in the track can be surpassed by rotating the structure so that they are obscured by geometry in the foreground — this and other such perceptual trickery are key to solving each stage. Physics is likewise alterable by shifting the isometric perspective and allowing the ever-plodding mannequin to plunge or leap to different sides of the geometry.

While similarities in the perspective alteration might remind players of the PSP title Crush, Echochrome is a doozy in and of itself. It’s a striking take on the puzzle genre that takes one of the often fatal flaws of gaming (i.e. camera obnoxiousness) and turns it into the very core of gameplay. While North American gamers only have access to 56 puzzles compared to the Japanese release of 100, that qualm is water under the bridge because you can design and upload your own levels which are then downloaded periodically by PS3 users.

Echochrome gets really tricky really fast and novice puzzlers, or people uncomfortable with excessively multi-dimensional planning, will likely get scared off quickly. It doesn’t help that the music is soothing to the point of being creepy as well. A-Glenn Given