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For: PSP

Worth waiting for

Product: echoshift | Developer: Sony Computer Entertainment Japan | Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Europe | Format: PSP | Genre: Platform, Puzzle | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
echoshift PSP, thumbnail 1
The adult mayfly enjoys a brief but intense life, living barely long enough to see an evening. Yet in this short time it emerges from the water, experiences the exhilaration of flight, and mates. Hunter S. Thompson would be proud.

A day might seem an eternity to artists' mannequins, though, who, if Artoon is to be believed, expire within 30 to 40 seconds of coming into being. Perhaps this explains the abundance of ‘dead’ ones in craft shops.

echoshift is the sequel to the strikingly handsome - and Gold Award-winning - echochrome. While developments elsewhere have dulled its impact a second time round, the game is still a wonderful experience despite not feeling quite as unique as its older brother.

Eschewing Escher

Gone are the austere aesthetics and spatial mind-bending, replaced instead by colourful frivolity and time-bending. Over the 56 levels, the goal is simply to reach the exit door by pressing buttons, avoiding peril, and bridging gaps.

But with as little as 30 seconds to achieve this, the task is more than one mannequin can manage alone. Thankfully, once the clock has ticked down you replay the level, this time in the company of an ‘echo’ of your last go.

Up to nine of these echoes (each go termed a ‘cast’) are permitted, and it's possible to start the next one early from the pause menu. Beating most of the levels using the provided casts is fairly easy, but to achieve a three-star rating, levels must be solved using as few as two.

Watching your attempts evolve from uncontrolled chaos to elegantly choreographed dance is deeply satisfying, and the wonderful staccato woodwind and brass score really complements the process.

The layering ‘cooperate with yourself’ mechanic will be familiar to those who've played around with things like Cursor*10 or Braid, but variations on the theme are generously plentiful as you progress.

It's refreshing to see a developer prepared to break out of the iterative sequel model and instead turn the original game on its head - echochrome’s timelessness abandoned in favour of chronology as the primary concern - but in aligning the game with others, Artoon has diminished the power of its ideas to astonish.

Well timed

What is here will still delight, though, and that's more than adequate compensation. After the expected tropes have been explored (pushing buttons in unison with past echoes, walls which require 50 taps of X, and so on) some fresher ideas emerge.

Inert squares morph into deadly floating enemies and stalk the closest mannequin when its back is turned, but revert to their block form when faced; pathways degrade and drip away like ink over time; levels are plunged into darkness, gradually lit by spotlights as you find your way.

The combination of elements in later levels results in fraught, devious puzzles that require a cool head to solve.

But doing so is not the end - once those are fathomed two more variants become available. The first is Key, in which the exit door must be unlocked with a key placed somewhere in the level, often requiring new tactics to acquire.

The second, Illusion, grants you the power to stop time for three seconds per cast. Your echoes will freeze, but you're still able to move - used well, this mode enables much faster completion times and offers a great deal of replay potential.

Past mistakes

Unfortunately, the developer does not share the game's ability to revise errors, and there are a few irritations. Most notable are the loading periods between each cast. Whilst short, they can frustrate when you’re trying to juggle a complex solution in your head and, with up to nine per level, can test your patience.

Players hoping to construct their own fourth dimension conundrums will also be disappointed at the lack of a level editor, but there will be downloadable content. Some may find the new aesthetic a little garish, too, but this is a matter of personal taste.

Shout into a tunnel and the echo of your voice will get weaker each time, fading to silence. But echoshift should be viewed as a companion piece to echochrome, not a degraded facsimile - it’s another voice calling back from the dark. Essential, and highly enjoyable, I recommend making as much time for this game as it does for you.
Reviewer photo
Ben Maxwell | 3 March 2010
Whilst not quite as perfectly formed as its prequel, echoshift is still great fun, and offers a relaxing, slow-paced experience that is perfect for Sunday morning brain training
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