echochrome. Itâ€™s an odd name, and was an odd game when it came out several years ago for the PS3 and PSP. Part interactive-Escher-puzzle, part physics-platformer, it was set in a stark black and white environment where players attempted to move an artistâ€™s wooden model along the surface of various objects. Players didnâ€™t control the character â€“ they rotated and moved the blocks and different shapes, in order to create a path to an â€˜echoâ€™ â€“ a ghost, or shadow of a figure. The strange mood of the game - quiet yet intense - accompanied by a wonderful score by Hideki Sakamoto of Noisycroak, quickly secured it a large number of fervent fans.
Two years later, echochrome is back, with a second title called, simply, echochrome ii (lower case intentional). While there are significant similarities to echochrome, echochrome ii promises even greater challenges, as it moves the playing field from the tangible to the intangible, in a world where players manipulate light and shadow to find hidden paths and spaces.
In short, like the first title, echochrome ii again presents players with the task of moving a figure from one point to another; the difference is that the figure actually walks along the shadow shapes that are projected against a wall, when you shine a light on a group of objects. You arenâ€™t able to manipulate the objects or the figure itself, but you can - using your Move controller - change the position of the light source and in turn move the shadow path for the figurine.
There are a range of different shapes to navigate: scissory staircases, ledges with holes in them (that cause the figure to drop to the next level or, if you are unlucky, off the screen), and doorways that can lead from one place to another - if they are lined up correctly. Small circles act as a barrier if they are located at body height; if slightly submerged beneath a flat surface however, they act as a springboard to launch the figure up and out into the air â€“ and hopefully on to a higher level. As you move the light source these shapesâ€™ shadows will stretch and merge, or part, and reveal different characteristics to make use of - depending on the angle of the light.
There are three types of gameplay in echochrome ii that can be played on any of the different levels. The first is called â€˜escortâ€™, where your objective is to lead the figure (who begins the level sitting on a swing, high up above the shadow levels) to the goal - a small doorway leading to a staircase. Initially the goal is apparent, but after the tutorial is over you have to create the goal via your torch as well - by aligning a small blue rectangle with a blue circle - in order to create the right shape.
In â€˜echoâ€™, the second type of game, you lead your figure along the shadow paths to collect other shadows (echoes) â€“ in a similar gameplay style to the first echochrome title.
In â€˜paintâ€™, the third game type, figurines are created in specific colours and, as they move along the shadow paths, they colour the source blocks that cast the shadows. To win at this game, you need to colour a certain percentage of the blocks.
In addition to the gameplay, echochrome ii also gives players the tools to create and share their own levels. Or if you are less of a creator (but still a sharer), you can post videos of your successful level navigation to youtube â€“ with or without the accompanying video of you sitting on your couch playing, courtesy of the Move camera. While Iâ€™m not likely to want to share that image with the world anytime soon, itâ€™s an interesting addition to the game.
Once again, the soundtrack for echochrome ii is composed by Sakamoto for Noisycroak and, in my opinion, it is the perfect accompaniment for the game; a lovely amalgam of sophisticated strings with quirky melodies. Others have commented that they love the soundtrack so much they often turn the game on and just leave it playing in the background. There are also plans to release a CD of the song (yes, just one single song, as opposed to the multiple tracks created for the first title â€“ but one song thatâ€™s 75 minutes long; apparently Noisycroak are looking at applying for a World Record title). For the record: I loved it.
While ultimately echochrome ii is a sparse puzzler where you point a light source at a cluster of coloured blocks, it is so lovely, so seamless, and so enjoyable to play (not to mention bloody difficult at times), Iâ€™m adamant if you are going to purchase a Move this Christmas, echochrome ii is an absolute must-have. Itâ€™s simple yet difficult, whimsical yet sophisticated, and above all, creative â€“ what all good games should be.