Published by: Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
Developed by: Artoon
One of the more unusual puzzle games on the PSP to date is Echochrome, a puzzle game, in which you controlled what looked like an artist’s mannequin, which used an extremely simplistic art style and relied on perspective. Echoshift continues with the same art style but it’s essentially a very different game. Here the focus is placed on you simply getting from the starting point to the exit point on any of the game’s 50+ stages but as you’d expect from the developer of the Blinx games, which appeared on the Xbox, time manipulation is a key element here.
In Echoshift you’ll have a set amount of time to reach your goal. Your mannequin won’t be able to do this all by himself however as there are obstacles to overcome. Fortunately, you’re not limited to one run through any given stage. Once the time has run out, you can then attempt to reach the goal again with an echo, or shadow, of your previous effort playing out alongside your second attempt. In essence then, you’re laying down recordings of your actions, known as casts, to enable you to reach your goal on subsequent attempts. To begin with the puzzles will require the use of no more than two casts and everything is straightforward. However, as the puzzles increase in difficulty you’ll be using up to a maximum of nine casts, although you are awarded with a higher rating for using as few as possible.
Things begin in simple fashion having to deal with bridges alone but before long you’ll have to deal with barriers, enemies, moving platforms and even limited visibility. Each stage has a Key and Illusion variants. The Key variant requires you to collect a key before reaching the exit whilst Illusion allows you to use the R button to pause time for up to 3 seconds per cast. In the game’s tutorial your first cast is simply required to press a button that will form a bridge for your second cast to cross over. Multiple bridges don’t necessarily require more than two casts as with a bit of thought the first cast can time its button presses so that the second cast will have enough time to cross the bridge before the first cast can move on and close subsequent bridges for it to cross. Being able to visualise what subsequent casts will need to do and how long they will need to do it is vital in attaining the highest rankings on Echoshift’s stages. Thankfully, you can peruse your stage before beginning it which will allow you to come up with a strategy before recording your first cast.
Visually speaking, Echoshift retains the stylish but simplistic look of Echochrome. In Echochrome you had to constantly adjust the perspective and this could be fiddly to say the least. In Echoshift this potential source of irritation has been removed and you’ll view the action from a side on perspective only. You’re free to concentrate on the puzzles without having to wrestle with camera angles and Echoshift is a much better experience as a result. Given the graphical simplicity of the game it should come as no surprise that there are no frame rate issues to speak of. However, it’s a little disappointing that you have to deal with load times in between the use of each cast and installing data to a memory card doesn’t do much to shorten these times significantly.
Echoshift shouldn’t cause deaf gamers any problems. The game’s tutorial is subtitled. The game’s hints don’t have any speech as you simply watch the mannequin and its casts carry out a variety of actions that will help you in the following puzzle. There is some speech in the game that isn’t subtitled such as the words “Good luck” said prior to the start of a stage, “Replay”, said between casts, and “Excellent” when you’ve earned a three star rating. These omissions are unfortunate but do not cause any problems for deaf gamers.
Echoshift is a unique puzzle experience that’s quite unlike any other on the PSP. The whole time manipulation concept works very nicely and has to be cleverly used in order to solve some of the more challenging stages in the game. Echochrome in many respects was a good idea that didn’t really come together that well but Echoshift is a much better effort all round. You do not have to struggle with camera angles and put up with puzzles that could be tedious at times. Echoshift has all of Echochrome’s style and wraps it around a solid puzzle game that’s both challenging and surprisingly enjoyable. It’s definitely one of the better puzzle games on the PSP to date.