Japanese Echochrome demo impressions

While the PlayStation Network has had a bounty of high-quality downloadable games since its launch in November 2006, none have made us feel just as Echochrome has. The last time we played a puzzler and felt this peaceful afterwards was, well, never.

It’s remarkably difficult to explain Echochrome, but we’ll do our best. There are five laws in the Echochrome universe. The first is perspective traveling. Change the perspective to connect paths, and the character will walk as if the path is connected. The second law is perspective landing. The character will land on whatever appears to be below a hole. Holes are marked by a fully black circle. The third law is perspective persistence. Although you may not be able to see them, paths exist everywhere. By blocking gaps or empty spaces from sight, you block them from existence, effectively creating a path on which to travel. The next law, perspective absence, is similar in concept. Hide an obstruction (a hole or a jump), and it no longer exists. The final law is perspective jump. Jumps are marked by a white circle with a black border. This law works akin to perspective landing. Where you want to jump is up to you, as long as it appears to be above you.

The goal? Shift the perspective, and follow the echo. Echos are shifting black shapes reminiscent of the character. The laws all seem very complicated at first, but you should come to grips with them quickly enough.

The controls are fairly simple as well. The camera can be controlled by either the D-pad or either analog stick. Personally, we preferred the D-pad over the sticks. Triangle stops the character in its place. While standing still and "thinking," you are free to adjust the perspective to your liking. Holding X quickens the character’s walking rate, a useful tool if you’ve already got your path mapped out. Holding L1 allows for perspective manipulation with the Sixaxis. While not exactly precise, we’re glad the developers chose to include this feature. Regularly, the camera feels just a spot slow with the D-pad or analog stick, but motion sensing allows for fast perspective shifts in short periods of time. If you’re not a fan of the Sixaxis,  then feel free to hold R1 in conjuction with manipulating the camera for quicker perspective shifts. Tapping select brings up a timer in the top right of the screen should you wish to know how fast you can complete any given level. Finally, the square button helps "snap" paths into place.

The demo contained three non-tutorial levels, each one more diverse than the last. The first two were relatively small, requiring minimal use of the laws to complete. The last level was by far the biggest and most complex, requiring more clever use of the laws to proceed. We believe however that this third level is only a taste of whats to come in the retail version. As mentioned before, the camera controls just a tad too slowly for our liking. This may be adjustable for the North American and European releases however. The rest of the package works perfectly though. The levels are difficult but not frustrating, diverse but reasonable, simple but elegant and so forth.

Echochrome’s presentation proves simplicity is beauty. With a color palette relegated solely to black and white, the minimalistic style works wonders, perfectly suiting the gameplay. With soothing violin music accompanying each level, it’s easy to get lost in Echochrome’s warm embrace.

Knock on the door, but be warned, you may never come out.