ECHOPLEX (PC)

Developer: Output Games
Publisher: Output Games, Indienova
Genre: Action, Adventure, Puzzle, Indie, Simulation
Rating: N/A (Probably T)
Platforms: PC/Steam
Price: $14.99

In this first-person puzzle game, you work your way through of series of mazes. To get to the end, you have to traverse doors and switches, killer drones, and huge jumps and leaps. And to make matters worse, you’ll be followed by an exact copy of yourself.

Content Guide

Violence

Drones shoot purple energy blasts at you during some levels. A gun is drawn and there is a moment with a realistically depicted disembodied arm.

Other Negative Themes

The avatar, a man in a full white suit wearing a white mask, can be unsettling.

Positive Content

The game hints at the horrors of unbridled capitalism.

Running Through Hallways: The Game.

Review

ECHOPLEX is a game that has potential, but doesn’t do anything with it, resulting in an okay gaming experience. It’s a game of more style than substance, a game where the gameplay and message don’t work well together. ECHOPLEX seems to be trying to say something interesting, but whatever story the game is trying to tell is muddled.

The gameplay is the most solid part of ECHOPLEX, and even then it walks the fine line between fun and frustrating. Immediately upon starting the game, I noticed that the controls were way too sensitive for the type of gameplay that often requires precision movement. It was a minor problem, but indicative of what was in store.

As said above, ECHOPLEX is a first person puzzle game. There are 27 levels, and the task is the same in each one: collect all the memory bits and get to the end of the level. Along the way, there will be obstacles like doors and switches that open and close the former, drones that will shoot at you, and nonlinear level design. The crux of the game is that in most of the levels, an “echo” will follow you, repeating all your exact moves. Touching the echo immediately forces you to start over, so completing the game means thinking about how you and your echo moves, activates switches, and engages with drones. For example, if you running through a switch opens a door, your echo running through the same switch will close it. The thinking that ECHOPLEX requires can elicit fun at times.

All the fun of parkour and being stalked.

Sometimes however, especially in later levels, the game can cross over to frustratingly difficult. Once I hit around the 20th level, progression seemed less due to carefully thinking out a puzzle and more on luck and chance. Because of the way the game is designed, once you start the level, you have to keep running before the echo catches up, and it’s more like you are just trying to get a little farther each time. If you’ve ever played any of those online “hardest ever” games where there are a million things that will kill you and you just have to keep trying until you remember what they all are, ECHOPLEX ends up feeling like that near the end.

If that’s the type of game you’re looking for, great. But it feels like a chore to get through. But it might be worth it for the reward at the end, right? Well, ECHOPLEX has a story, and it has potential, but it’s so discombobulated that it ends up saying nothing at all. You play a character that has amnesia, and completing each level will unlock a few more memories. From what I can tell, there’s an organization that is running tests, and you somehow get caught in between them and the protests. It was a challenge to invest myself in what was going on, because the story keeps starting and stopping abruptly. More importantly, it doesn’t really seem to inform the events of this game. ECHOPLEX is about this company that has created a way for “echos” to form and follow you, but the game never answers why a company would do something like that. All the drama and subterfuge and twists in the story rests on a ridiculous premise (how does one sell an echo?) and acts like it isn’t ridiculous.

It’s a shame, because the story is told in live action clips, and if there’s something that can be said for this game, it’s that the presentation is solid. The game inspires an atmosphere of dread; the type one might feel as a lab rat caught in a cage. The music fits the gameplay, and the graphics, while simple, at least have an explanation (labs are usually white and sterile). But it’s not enough to bridge the gap between the story and gameplay.

The two parallel lines represent the puzzles and plot, never connecting.

If I could compare ECHOPLEX to another game, it would be Portal, the definitive first person puzzle game. I got the sense that ECHOPLEX is largely inspired by this game, but they somehow missed the things that made Portal so good. Portal works because the narrative is weaved into the gameplay naturally, and not tacked on afterwards. The premise of Portal doesn’t take itself too seriously, and each level of Portal feels rewarding when you solve them.

If you’re just looking for a quick puzzle game to play, without caring too much about story or substance, ECHOPLEX will probably will be fine. It lacks as a cohesive whole, but is fun enough to try once it’s on sale. Just don’t expect any answers or rewards for the trouble you go through to get to the end.

Review code generously provided by Novy PR

The Bottom Line

 

 

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Simon Jones

God, games and good times. When not playing videogames, you can find Simon at the D&D table, doing parkour or muay thai, or napping.

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