I didn’t expect to like ECHOPLEX as much as I did, and I certainly didn’t expect to get as in to the story being told as I ended up being. What starts as a convenient plot device to facilitate an intriguing take on spatial puzzles involving repetition and time travel ends up becoming a compelling motivator to keep going, keep pushing forward and keep trying to solve some devilishly hard puzzles.
An eerie “Echo” shadows your every move in ECHOPLEX. Everything you do is repeated by it – and if you stand still for too long, it’s game over! The secret to surviving is to use the entity’s mimicry to your advantage. For example, walking through a trigger will lock a door – but as the Echo passes through the same trigger, the door will open … allowing you to pass through.
ECHOPLEX drops you into a strange set of experiments in what looks to be a dystopian pharmaceutical corporation Clonochem. You, an unnamed, masked person have been administered a drug, Continuum, which is advertised as a way to restore memories. This all seems completely on the up and up, and there’s really no indication something bad might be going on.
So, you’re tasked with entering a doorway and reconstructing your memories by finding memory fragments and then bring them to a memory cluster. This sounds easy, and at first it is: each room is full of gateways that will open and close certain doors, or chasms that need to be jumped over to reach the end. Then, things start getting more dangerous. Ghostly echos of your past start appearing and retracing the steps you just took. Should the contact you, this will result in a fail state and you’ll be kicked out, needing to start over. Then, time limits appear, meaning you have very short windows to solve these puzzles (luckily, you’re able to use your premonition to explore the level as a disembodied form before truly starting, allowing you to learn the layout, but not activate any of the puzzle’s elements). Then, more echoes. There’s a constant sense that everything is building towards something…something sinister. Each time you solve a puzzle, your shown brief clips of your memories, and they don’t look entirely happy.
The Puzzles in ECHOPLEX are mind bending, complex, twitchy. Sure, the first few are tutorials and you’ll feel very confident in your ability, lulled into a false sense of security, but you’ll soon be scratching your head and sweating. The combination of time limits and a death-bringing echo of your self bearing down on you is a recipe for intense anxiousness and paranoia, but don’t miss the brilliance of some of the puzzle mechanics within the game. Using multiple echoes to great explosions to hurl yourself across chasms, using echoes as decoys, and taking what would seems to be strange paths through level in order to cancel out echoes is all part of the fun, and while you might get stuck for a while, these puzzles give you a great sense of satisfaction when complete.
One of the only major issues with ECHOPLEX is the actual movement mechanics in the game. Movement feels jerky and somewhat floaty, and there’s no option to adjust mouse sensitivity. You get use to this, but it stood out to me at the start of playing the game.
Additionally, later on in the game you run into floating drones that will hunt you down and shoot you with lasers, always following the closest target to them. I don’t mind that these drones can kill you in one shot, but i did feel like their detection was a little hit or miss. When timing is everything, it didn’t feel good when this wasn’t as accurate as it could be.
What kept me particularly engaged in ECHOPLEX was the story, and how it was told. As you play through the game you are fed tidbits of memory in the form of live action video clips, at first jumbled and largely meaningless, but as things begin to coelesce, painting a picture of dystopia, civil unrest, shadowy corporations and civilian resistance. It’s incredibly well done, and a very compelling way to telling this kind of story.
The aesthetics of the game reinforce the atmosphere created by the story, full of sanitized colors and hetecially cleaned hallways, all hidig something. One of the greatest artistic touches in the game is the fact that at the begining of every level, there is small diagram of the level you’ll be playing written in black dry erase marker on the wall of your cell/hosptial room, often with a few cryptic notes from what i can only assume is a former version of yourself.
ECHOPLEX is a mysterious and confusing puzzle game with some mechanical issues, but that doesn’t stop it from grabbing hold of you and refusing to let go. The story is mysterious and compelling, told in bits and pieces of live action memories that build a dystopian story of corporate meddling and civilian resistance.