EchochromelikePEGI3 Developer Sony Computer Entertainment Publisher Sony Computer Entertainment Genre Puzzle Platform PSP Release Out Now Echochrome is an odd sort of game, it's surreal, simplistic and devastatingly addictive. For a puzzle game, it ticks all the right boxes already. But is it something to shout about, or just negative feedback?

I think it's called 'crazy stairs'
Echochrome takes place in a monochrome world of floating blocks, the idea behind the game is to collect 'echoes', semi-transparent static objects which resemble the characters you control or pair up different coloured player characters, these stages end when all four players become one. I say control, but in-fact, the most control you'll ever have over a character on screen is making him stop walking or speed up. Your player will walk non-stop around the section of land it is on moving back and forth when it cannot go any further, leaving you in complete control of the game's geometry. And this is where Echochrome gets very interesting. There's so many ways for you to progress through any puzzle-world.

Along the way, your player character will come across various world objects such as jump pads or fall pads, white and black circles on the floor. Using these, you can progress through the world as anything above the player at the time it is in the air, regardless of distance between him and the platform in the Z-Axis (3D space). Same applies to falling. In the world of Echochrome, anything that you can't see doesn't exist. This can be achieved by obscuring your vision of a gap in the floor, jump pad or fall pad with other geometry. You can also align two different-height platforms against one-another and create one solid platform to help your player progress. This, however, doesn't apply to 'rivals', different coloured players whom when touched, send your player back to when they first landed on the current platform, if your player and another player collide while not visible on-screen, it still sends your player back.

Echoes, echoes, everywhere...
It's an easy concept to grasp, but mindbogglingly in execution. You really need time to think through a lot of the stages before you're able to find the right solution. This is bad, because some stages actually have an invisible timer. And worst still, you can't go back and replay any old stage you wish, you have to enter a random selection of stages and just hope you get the stage you wanted, or just skip all randomly selected stages until you come across the one you want.

And this is my major concern with Echochrome. It's a lot of style over substance. There are quite a lot of stages in the game, but no easy way to get through them. You can make your own levels, but good luck with that. The editor is so hard and cumbersome to use, you'll spend hours making a level which you already know the solution to because you've had to play the stage at least three dozen times to make sure a jump pad works like you hope it does. Even setting stage difficulty may not be abundantly apparent to you when you start the game, with it being controlled by the directional buttons with what can only be described as a volume control when a stage is about to start.

Flight of the mannequin
Controls are another major disappointment in the game. Whether you use the D-Pad or the Thumb-Nub, controls in the game are frustrating. You just want that little nudge to perfectly align these two platforms and... You keep missing. By this time, your player has wondered off or got caught by something. Thinking time only really helps when there are no rivals anywhere near you. Thankfully there is an 'auto-complete' button which does help you align those platforms, but it's hit-or-miss if it actually works half the time. You're best not to rely on the feature, as at the moment you desperately require it to work; it will not.

Visually the game is very stylish. It's monochrome world of black, white and grey all mix together and create a very vivid and visually striking game. The mannequin appearance of player characters and rivals add to the game's appeal somehow. The visual style of the game never makes you second-guess what something is on-screen. The simplistic approach to visuals means that less screen clutter gets in your way. However, it's also a hindrance when there's no visual representation of that invisible timer and lots of menu-screen elements are less than well explained or described. The simplistic nature of the game also makes loading times next to non-existent, great for a quick game.

Take my coat. I'm going in.
Sound, well, there's one track in the game that runs through the entirety of your game-time. This is punctuated with synthetic chimes, all of which have very little meaning even after hours of game time other than the obvious 'player got hit' and 'player collected echo' noises. The only other type of audio you'll find in the game are title screen sounds and the tutorial, which is the only voice you'll hear through-out the game.

Overall then, Echochrome is something completely different. If you were expecting something brash and beautiful from the cover art for the game, you'll be in for one hell of a surprise. But for what it is, Echochrome is a fun little game. It probably wont hold your attention for hours on end, but it will surely engage that grey matter of yours. Puzzle fans, this is a must-have for the PSP. And better yet, at this point in the PSP's life span (November 2009) it's dirt cheap. Go find it, you wont be disappointed.