- JAPAN Studio
Echochrome is all about perspective. In this stark, black-and-white puzzle game, players manipulate an Escher-like construction. Tweak the view just right, and two spots that were originally separated by empty space will meet. Spin the whole shebang around so a gap is obscured, and it will cease to exist. The game works a lot like Lemmings. Players control the fate of an artist's manikin—a swivel-limbed puppet that walks back and forth until new avenues are opened up. The point of Echochrome is to guide the manikin through a series of goals before time runs out. Pads that will make the wooden man jump or holes that cause him to plummet into space complicate the task of guiding him from point A to point B. Thinking your way around these puzzles requires tossing aside notions of reality and embracing all of Echochrome's impossibilities.
The onscreen action is backed by an austere classical soundtrack and a robotic female voice that could easily conjure flashbacks of Portal's GLaDOS. Staring at Echochrome's pristine white world feels a little like looking at a blank word-processor page. Can a video game make you snowblind?
Beyond the game: Both the PlayStation 3 version and the PSP version are available only as downloads. Each comes with 56 completely different puzzles. Last year's Crush for the PSP has a similar perspective-hacking premise, but the mechanics are different enough that Echochrome doesn't feel like a rehash or a rip-off.
Worth playing for: Players can craft their own puzzles, then upload them for review. The game's developers handpick the user-made levels and make them available online. Already, Japanese gamers have cooked up more than a few mind-bending challenges.
Frustration sets in when: Time limits are an unnecessary contrivance and an all-around annoyance. Echochrome is most interesting when the player is making mental leaps. The addition of a ticking clock tears the focus away from the mind-game.
Final judgment: A literal expression of the phrase, "What you see is what you get."