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TGS 09: Hands on with echoshift

9:03 AM on 09.27.2009 // 50ft. Samurai

Remember echochrome? You should, because we did a review of it and let you know that it totally rocked. Did you go out and buy it? If not, shame on you.  You have a chance to make up for your errant ways, though, as the sequel is due to hit the PSP this November in Japan, with localized versions to follow. We got the chance to play it for a bit at TGS and also talk to the producer, Mr Wataru Kato.

Echoshift keeps the simplistic style of the first game in its graphics, music, and characters while losing the perspective-shifting gameplay and instead focusing on controlling time. It works like this: there are a series of obstacles that you need to get past in order to reach the door that signifies the end of the level.

You may need to hold down a switch in order to raise a barrier and pass through, for example. The trick is, you can’t do both as there’s only one of you. However, once you let the timer run out (or advance it manually) you return back in time to where you started, where you now control a second iteration of yourself. The past you does what you did- i.e. push the switch- and the new you is free to walk through the open door.  When the timer runs out, you go back again, to a third iteration, then a fourth, etc. All of your “past lives” record and carry out your past actions. You cooperate with yourself! How does it all work out? Check inside, friend.

If all of this sounds familiar, you have played Cursor*10, the indie game sensation, or even Onorenoshinzurumichi o yuke, a From Software (Japan-only and likely to stay that way) PSP game that was developed with the same people.

While the time shifting gameplay is initially interesting, it can get frustrating because it often winds up being a matter of trial and error, with you realizing that a past iteration of you isn’t going to help you when you need it to, and you having to start the whole damn level over again.  You get extra points for solving a level with as few “lives” as possible, so while there is some room for error, you may just be tempted to start from scratch once you know the right path through.

As for control, I’m happy to say that it has improved from echochrome. This is due to you actually moving your character around, as opposed to rotating the entire perspective like you did before.  Also, later stages (which I didn’t have time to see) may incorporate three-dimensional aspects, but the initial puzzles/stages only feature two, with some foreground/background plane shifting.

Any cause for worry? Well, Sony has enlisted Artoon to create the game, and if you have a good memory, you’ll remember that they attempted a time-manipulation game before. It was called Blinx: The Time Sweeper and starred the scariest cat I have ever seen. It also wasn’t very good.  From what I can see, though, the game’s time system is totally different, and its focus on being a puzzler instead of a platformer makes it easier to pick up and play.  The game hits November 1st , so if you are curious, import yourself a copy.

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