Revolving around a single mechanic is a trait that many indie titles have taken over the years. Echoplex is no different. This first-person indie-action game developed by Output Games is currently available on Steam, albeit in early access.
The basic principle behind each of Echoplex’s perplexing levels is simple. Find the exit and in turn recover a lost fragment of memory. However, to do so isn’t quite so straightforward. Each memory is trapped behind a sequence of locked doors that you must navigate in order to progress the game’s overarching narrative.
Starting out with a simple puzzle the developers ease you in at a nice pace allowing you to familiarise yourself with the controls in a safe environment. It’s only as you delve further into this psychological puzzler that the game reveals an unlikely villain.
Echoes are the game’s main selling point. These anonymous enemies dressed in white carry with them an eerie presence as they chase you through each of the game’s minimalist puzzle-based environments. However, it’s the means by which they exist that acts as the core feature from which the entire game is built around.
These anonymous enemies dressed in white carry with them an eerie presence as they chase you through each of the game’s minimalist puzzle-based environments
See, echoes are past version of yourself. Shortly after starting each level, an infamous warning announcement blares through the long corridors sounding out the words – “Echo Breach”. From this point forward the chase is on! A spawning echo will follow the exact path that you’ve followed matching every move you take.
So, in theory, continuously moving should allow you to stay one step ahead of “yourself”, right? Well, yes and no!
Throughout some puzzles, it’s essential to use your echo in order to progress. For example, you may be standing in a corridor with two gateways between yourself and the exit door. Passing through the first will open the exit, however, passing through the second will then close it. To solve this puzzle you’ll need to you pass through the first gateway, wait, and then run through the second. Doing this will allow you to walk through the open exit as your Echo copies your pattern. It’s essential that you wait between doorways so that your echo does too. This will give you enough time to escape. However, wait too long and your echo will catch you before you move towards the doorway. The game nicely integrates this level of time management throughout forcing you to solve each problem in a pressure-timed environment.
In other scenarios the puzzle may require you to double back on yourself, at this point there’s a good chance your Echo will be running full pace directly towards you. A distorted screen and white noise similar to that of the Slenderman series greets you when the echo nears, creating a sinister presence around the faceless foe. In the game’s early stages this fear builds manifesting itself at the heart of the gameplay.
However, as the game progresses, the echoes lose their haunting vibe. The game’s puzzles become far more complex and whilst this makes for mind-bending gameplay, it detracts from the villainous terror that the echoes convey in earlier levels.
The game’s overarching narrative, fuelled by broken recollections of the past complimented the game’s tone and brought with it enough satisfaction that I felt driven to complete some of the game’s more complex scenarios. Cutscenes illustrating riots, laboratories, and crowds of people all help to develop an ominous tone as the game progresses. Each memory felt well balanced. Fast-cut edited cut-scenes promoted an enigma to the narrative whilst in the meantime presenting enough detail to highlight the overall tone and direction in which the story was moving.
At times, however, Echoplex has its issues. At this point, it’s important to reiterate once again that the game is still in early access and so doesn’t represent a final product. That being said, there were points in the later levels where the game simply didn’t work. The echoes at times just failed to spawn. There is a mechanic in the game where two echoes can spawn and, in the event that they make contact then the pair combine forming an explosion. But, the glitch I encountered happened both in levels where multiple echoes and single echoes were set to spawn.
recollections of the past complimented the game’s tone and brought with it enough satisfaction that I felt driven to complete some of the game’s more complex situations
Throughout Echoplex, speed and timing are key to successfully navigating the game’s minimalist world. There were situations through the game where I’d spend a minute running and waiting through the various gateways only to find after, that nothing was following me. Restarting a level at this point more often than not fixed the issue, but when you’re straining to work out a complex puzzle and each attempt is mentally draining, then bugs like this become disheartening.
There were situations through the game where I’d spend a minute running and waiting through the various gateways only to find after that nothing was following me
Echoplex’s mind-boggling puzzle based gameplay works as both it’s biggest strength and weakness as it acts to both create and detract from an eerie and menacing tone. At its prime, Echoplex will leave you with a headache, a good mind-straining headache that fills you with a sense of fulfillment. However, its overuse of the echo model at times detracts from its fearful nature as they begin to feel more like hazardous tools than the life-taking killers they set out to present.
This review copy of Echoplex was supplied by NOVY LTD representing Output Games. The game is currently in early access and available through steam. Our Editor In Chief Jared Moore spent 6 hours avoiding echoes and getting his memory.