Surprisingly decent for $5.

User Rating: 7.2 | Alter Echo XBOX
It's easy not to expect much of a game you pick out of the bargain bin for $4.99, but Alter Echo is better than a lot of games I've paid full price for recently. I was intrigued with the premise when I first heard of it a few years ago, but, like 99.999% of the other gamers out there, I ignored it when it hit the shelves. Alter Echo is definitely worth playing if you need a short distraction and like action games in the vein of Devil May Cry or... well, Devil May Cry. The story and the voice-acting are competent, but the script is pretty weak. Nevin, the protagonist, just comes off like an unfunny jerk whenever he 'wisecracks.' The actors playing the voices of Paavo and the sentient substance Echo do an especially good job. The beginning of the game is overflowing with little boring tutorial cutscenes, but these become less of a problem as the game wears on. Alter Echo can be easily beaten in around five or six hours, so it's short enough not to grow repetitious. Each of the game's fifty stages (I think there's fifty, I wasn't really counting) can be beaten in a matter of minutes, meaning you can easily cut your game time into bite-size chunks if necessary. Most of the game consists of combo-based combat, which was handled very well by the developers. It's fun and easy to pull off combos and special attacks against the myriad of foes the game throws at you. The developers did a good job of mixing up the types of enemies you face so that you're constantly switching between your three available forms while you're fighting. All three forms of you suit are pretty useful, but you'll probably stay in your Sword form most of the time because it moves the quickest. Time dilation is Alter Echo's most unique feature. These timing/rhythm-based puzzles can help you defeat enemies or bosses and are essential to progression in the game. They seem tricky at first, but they're manageable once you get the hang of them. Thankfully for those of us that are rhythmically challenged (white), any time you screw up one of the time dialation puzzles you usually just get to start over again with no penalty. The boss battles in Alter Echo definitely aren't a strong point. None of the bosses are terribly difficult, they're mostly just tedious. You'll otherwise be making such brisk pace through the game that these encounters stick out like sore thumbs when you're inevitably slowed by them. Breaking up the boss battles into smaller stages might have helped them seem more in tune with the rest of the game, but then again that might have just made the game even easier. Probably the game's most glaring weakness (and the reason it didn't sell too well) is the fact that it just looks generic. Alter Echo's art direction takes an ideal concept (a world made of a completely malleable material) and doesn't do anything interesting visually with it. The palette consists mostly of dull pinks and purples with lots of levitating platforms and blue-glowy rocks and stuff, all of which serves to make Alter Echo's world look like a less interesting version of the Xen stages in Half-Life. It's disappointing that whenever your main character shapes an object out of the world with his mind, it just magically appears there with no interesting visual accompaniment. The blandness also extends to the pudgy, round-faced, Fisher-Price-like character designs, the generic techno music, and weak sound effects. All in all, Alter Echo is a decent game wrapped in shoddy packaging. Pick it up just so you can tell your friends how cheap you got it for. Then you'll probably stick around until the end because the combat is so keen.
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