Sunday, July 19

Echochrome - Relentless Motion Sickness

          Echochrome is a perspective-based puzzle game that makes me want to throw up after about five minutes of play. I’ve tried many times and from different angles to see if I’m doing more damage to myself than I need to be, but nothing has helped. It’s the kind of game that makes me need to lie down, not least of which because it’s frustratingly hard.
          The puzzles in Echochrome are clever, and the way it makes me think about space is interesting, but in the opening bits of the game I pressed a button and accidentally skipped the tutorial and could not find my way back to it, so most of my puzzling was left to self-discovery. Fortunately I’d learned enough to have a stable foothold and after a quick lie-down waiting for the room to cease spinning, I got through a few puzzles.
          It really does feel like the game is intentionally trying to make me sick. Even the visual effect for hitting a checkpoint is nauseating.
          The game is clever. It’s fun to figure out all the neat perspective tricks you can do, but I never felt the puzzles were inventive, like the system would let me find my own solution. It always felt like there was a right way I wasn’t finding. You can connect pieces of each area together seamlessly and your character can cross over them, but only if the connection is pixel-perfect. Countless times I would push the Go button and the figure would take a step, see my shoddy work, and turn away in disgust.
          Echochrome has a staggering number of user-designed levels that seem so complex that I have no interest in hunkering down to learn them. It’s that kind of thing that happens to new Magic players when they hear about Legacy. I don’t know if the tutorial would’ve helped my feel much less stupid. The basics aren’t complex, but their iterative execution is intolerably precise and slow, made worse by a goal time for each puzzle.
          As far as pure puzzle games go, try Professor Layton. Those puzzles have great variation, theme, and a hint system that lets you decide how important a top score is.
          Echochrome is cool, really, it’s just not what I want. I imagine it was hard to make, and its visual trickery is a lot of fun, but it doesn’t give me those great “Aha!” moments like other puzzles seem to.  I feel bad that the makers clearly worked on realizing this vision, and I couldn't even give it two hours.  But it's just one of those things.  Some people can't watch 3D movies, and I can't play Echochrome.

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