Truly Mind-Bending

echochrome turns perspective into reality like no game before it. Just make sure you've got some aspirin on hand.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: May 11, 2008
It sounds like such an obvious concept: what you see is what you get. Leave it up to an ultra-simplistic, M.C. Escher-inspired look to sell the idea in such a way as to make it immediately understandable, but like many of the Dutch artist's mind-bending works, the longer you look, the more complex things actually become.

The WYSIWYG approach applies to everything in echochrome's world; complete cover up a white jump pad or a black hole or even a chasm with something and it no longer exists. Position the world so that a platform that was technically all the way across the level now appears to be underneath a hole and the little mannequin will drop down, seamlessly making the transition as if it really was below -- at least until you swing the camera around and the constantly left-turning little guy is suddenly all the way across the level.

echochrome universally adheres to just five basic principles, but they all basically boil down to that acronym I've mentioned already. The only remaining one that I haven't mentioned is also the most head-scratching of them all: if you line up two platforms -- again, even ones across a level -- so that they appear connected, they will be. It's perhaps the most difficult of all the concepts to completely wrap your head around, but once you do, the flexibilities allow for the puzzles to completely turn your head inside-out.

That's most definitely a good thing.

Because you're asked only to guide the constantly-walking mannequin from one black "echo " to another using the rules, there's little to the game beyond precisely lining everything up to adjust perspective to make it reality. To aid in this, you can tap the Square Button to lock things, helping with some of the more unwieldy elements like jumps and falls, but also to make lining up things so gaps can be bridged. Tapping Triangle will let your tireless avatar hold for a moment while you think, but there is a constantly ticking clock, so waiting for too long is a bad idea.

Though the levels in the game are technically different, the only true thing that separates the PSP and PS3 versions of echochrome is the fact that you can download custom levels in the PS3 game. Both feature Canvas Mode, which allows you to make your own levels should you feel like channeling Escher, but on the PSP you'll have to share them via Wi-Fi face-to-face-to-air with someone. Otherwise, the modes are identical, meaning you can pick from eight random levels and tweak the difficulty of the next one while loading it up (and if you get stumped, you can skip a level too), or tackle them all individually or in progressively harder brackets.

One of the best things about the game is just how flexible the rules are. While there may be one "proper" way to finish a level, the freedom that the five rules provides means that once your head is in the right space (it usually took me about 10-15 minutes of playing to really snap into things), you can effectly chart your own path to get somewhere. You're not exactly "breaking" the game, but I've finished multiple levels in multiple ways -- often because I couldn't remember how it did it before.

With little beyond some ambient, meandering, violin-driven music and the constant clack-clack-clack of footfalls to the audio and start white on simple lines, echochrome's minimalist approach extends to all parts of the experience. It's also one of the main reasons why the purely cerebral approach works so well. There are times when a level can seem absolutely impossible until something just clicks, and the game's simple approach to delivering it all is infinitely helpful in that regard. Rather than distracting, you're encouraged to sit back and concentrate, and the result is an incredibly original, thoroughly engrossing take on a visual puzzler. It's also a must-buy for someone looking to really bake their noodle.
The Verdict