Echochrome II Review

By Rob Manuel - Posted Jan 06, 2011

The little wooden boy is back in echocrome ii, a new downloadable puzzle-platformer that uses your Move wand to illuminate some of the trickiest puzzles. As you manipulate the shadows, you'll be able to create bridges, platforms, and holes in numerous levels to reach your goal. Simple mechanics and clever puzzles will keep gamers coming back for more.

The Pros
  • Clever and unique puzzles
  • Spot on Move controls
  • Download new puzzles or make your own
The Cons
  • Sometimes frustrating mechanics
  • Dry and monotonous environments
  • No Sixaxis Controller Support

echochrome 2 Review:

Attention kind readers: if you don’t already own one of Sony’s lovely Move sets, then you need not read any further. Peruse the assortment of other reviews on the site. Take in a thrilling trailer. Your attention is better spent elsewhere since these sometime ingenious puzzles can only be experienced through a stick and glowing ball. It’s a shame really since these types of puzzle games can often have an audience as big as a Mr. Belvidere convention. (We call it BevCon.) For the rest of you who have already worn out your copy of The Shoot, echochrome ii represents the sort of creativity and imagination when you fine-tune a very simple mechanic – playing with shadows.

Echochrome 2

Me and My…

Not since Mokujin have gamers eagerly anticipated the return of a little wooden man. As in the first echochrome, all the puzzles deal changing how you perceive the world presented to you. Just as the first turned two-dimensional space into a 3D world, echochrome ii asks the player to do just the opposite. We never get to see our hero, just his shadow as he walks, climbs, and sometimes get pushed around by the surrounding shadows emitted by a single light source and a couple of cleverly placed blocks out in space. What sounds like a rather simple task can be greatly complicated as different concepts or slight twists in the mix. 

You, the player, control that right off-camera light source with your Move wand. The Move controls really shine when it comes to fine movement. Often, a couple of angles and a turn of the wrist can mean success or failure. Then again, we’re not talking about surgery here. The controls rest mainly on moving around the light and making your character move faster – from “stroll” to “needs to pee.” I cannot help but think that the same could be accomplished with the controller with only a little loss of control. This being a Move-only game does not take away from the great experience, but only limits the number of gamers who can really enjoy this clever diversion.

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Shadow Play

Each of these darkened delights comes with three modes of play – escort, echo, and paint. Escort, the typical mode of play, throws your little man out into the field and you have to find the exit – and I do mean “find.” You’ll need to move the shadows around for the exit to appear. Echo follows the original by placing three echoes of the character on the board. You can touch them in any order. Paint throws out three little guys willing to paint the town red – or green or blue. Every time they step on a shadow, the square gets painted and you have to paint a set percentage in order to leave the level. Kill any one of the guys and you’ll earn a time penalty. The additional modes add enough to each of the puzzles so you never feel cheated for wandering through the same shadows.

It’s not a simple walk through the black-and-white park. To keep things interesting, echochrome 2 throws around some new ideas such as teleport gates that will transport you to any adjacent gate, using half hidden circles to bounce your character around, and a couple of old tricks such as holes in the floor that lead to level below or a shadowy oblivion. These little mechanics add to the dozens of ways that you can complete the task at hand. They also require a bit a precision that’s never truly explained. Sometimes the circle is just a little too high. Half hidden holes send you to your doom instead of the floor below. Sometimes the portals are off just enough so nothing happens. An audio cue lets you know when you have it right, but that bell could be for any number of other objects on the board. Little unnecessary aggravations spring up from time to time but never stop players from getting through most of the puzzles.  

And for a very clean design – more about that shortly – solving the puzzles in the fastest manner is often anything but elegant. When you angle your light around, the character stands still but he can be manipulated by the environment around him as well. Blocks push, crush, or even carry your little man around. Honestly, it feels like taking the stickers off a Rubik’s cube just to get that last side together. Take it as you will. If you are someone who wants to find the one right way, you’ll find that sometimes the answer can be rather messy in the land of shadows.

Echochrome 2

You Could Drive a Person Crazy  

White on white: most of the puzzles come with little to few colors. It’s a clean and neat presentation that can become sterile and lifeless after the fifth puzzle in a row. The boxes, as well intentioned as they may be, sometimes get in the way since you’re only concerned with their shadows. A full orchestra fills the space with music you might find on Sondheim’s nightstand. I swear that a couple of pieces were lifted straight from the Company soundtrack. (You know. The one about the guy going through a mid-age crisis. Middle-class New York problems. Never mind.) For as neutral the music is, there are only so many songs on the tracklist. White walls, white blocks, repeating wallpaper music; it wears on you after awhile.

Taking a page from their previous game, echochrome ii lets you design your own levels or download what other people have made. Creating your own levels can sometimes be just as challenging as solving the puzzle. You have to think about the different sort of angles, where to put an exit, or even what kind of background you want to project your puzzle on. In theory, gamers can continue wandering the shadowy lands for some time to come with additional content rolling in all the time. When I went to visit, however, the same two or three puzzles appeared multiple times across their “best of” boards. Sometimes genius takes awhile.

Echochrome 2

More than Breath and Shadow

Someone once told me that as long as a puzzle game makes you feel smart, that’s all that’s important. Echochrome ii succeeds in spades here by putting you in seemingly impossible situations only to find the exit minutes later. The development team stretched the idea of playing with shadows in some very clever ways. Sometimes they hide little pictures that can only be found by turning the light in a certain direction. And just when you think you’ve seen everything, the game introduces a new world of puzzles when you can rotate around the whole box – completely changing the way you’ve been playing. For those of you who have the Move, this little downloadable title might just be one of the best games you can buy for your wand.