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GDC 08: New gameplay footage of Echochrome (also, hands-on!)

8:00 PM on 02.19.2008 // Chad Concelmo

Nick already got some short hands-on time with upcoming PSN game Echochrome at last year’s TGS, but the English build -- which was available to play at Sony’s fancy press room in the swank W Hotel -- offered a few new levels to try out. Since I love any and all games that offer something new, I was quick to pick up the sad, lonely PS3 controller on one of Sony’s white leather couches (I told you it was fancy!) and test it out for myself.

As you can see in the above tutorial video, the game offers five ways to solve the game’s Escher-esque puzzles: perspective traveling, perspective landing, perspective existence, perspective absence, and perspective jump. Each technique involves rotating the level around a constantly moving character to “catch” some strange, shadowy creatures called “echoes.”

Despite the game’s obviously minimalist graphical style, Echochrome looks and sounds beautiful. In all honesty, I would take a hundred of games that look like this over one generically rendered FPS or Grand Theft Auto clone. Like Okami before it, this art inspired style is a refreshing change of pace (to say the least).

Hit the jump for another video of the first handful of levels I got to play and some more of my hands-on impressions.

I was a little shocked at first that you don’t actual control your character in the game. Instead, you rotate the stage in all directions while your little marionette aimlessly walks forward (think of classic game Lemmings to get an idea of what I mean).

Since the stage rotates rather slowly, this could have been an almost crippling game mechanic, but all is remedied with a quick press of the triangle button, which makes your character stop in place while you continue to move the stage. This takes some of the pressure off and lets you think a little bit more on how to solve the game’s progressively more challenging levels.

The level design in Echochrome is next to revolutionary. Right when you think there is absolutely no way to reach a certain ledge, you rotate the stage and discover an ingenious route to the goal. Need to find a way to clear that annoying gap? Just move a piece of the stage in front of it so you can’t see it anymore. Voila, your character can now pass over it! The way the game uses the actual player’s perspective to progress is incredible and works extremely well.

Although I only got to play a few stages of the game, I already love what I see. Like I said before, the graphics are gorgeous and the music that plays during the game is the perfect level of orchestration: defined, yet restrained.

I am not even going to think twice about downloading this original, clever puzzler when it is available on the PlayStation Network sometime this year. Hopefully people will read this and -- after knocking everything off their desks in excitement -- be inspired to support this little gem when it is released. Sadly, I feel Echochrome will be one of those games with amazing critical acclaim, but no sales whatsoever. Prove me wrong, people! Get those wallets out and unite! It is going to take some pretty strong financial support to inspire more designers to take these kinds of (amazing!) risks.

Chad Concelmo,
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