TOKYO--Sony briefly unveiled an interesting new puzzle game called Echochrome at E3 back in July, and today at Sony's Tokyo Game Show booth, we got to try a quick demo of the game for ourselves. If you haven't seen Echochrome yet, each stage of this unique puzzler consists of geometric shapes--mostly lengthy volumetric cylinders and rectangular blocks--that form walkways that a little humanoid figure must traverse. Each level is fraught with obstacles such as gaps in the walkways, holes that your little figure can fall through, and jump pads that will launch the poor thing off into the white ether.
The trick here is that the path through the course is all about the perspective from which you're looking at it. The philosophy in Echochrome says that down is up and up is down, and a corollary is that if you can't see it, it isn't there. For instance, if there's a gap between two walkways, rotate the level such that one of the vertical columns is covering up the gap, and then, as far as the game is concerned, the gap is no longer there. If you use a column to similarly cover up a hole in the walkway, then there is no hole. Or if you've got a hole under which there's nothing but blank space, you can rotate the level so the hole is above another walkway rather than below it, and your little figure will fall onto that second walkway. (We know this sounds crazy.) Everything is relative in Echochrome, and you have to think in a unique way to get a handle on how it all works.
The single-level demo on the TGS show floor is extremely brief--you can finish it in about 60 seconds if you know what to do--but it gave a good sample of how the final game will work. Basically, you can play this game solely with one analog stick (used to rotate the levels around in all directions), which explains how it will be easily playable on both the PlayStation 3 and the PSP. Furthermore, the graphics are so spartan--the little humanoid is featureless and the levels are simply line-drawn against a solid white background--that it should be able to look and run identically on both platforms.
The most interesting aspect of Echochrome that came out of our hands-on time is the urgency you feel while playing it, given that you can't control when your little person starts and stops moving. It begins walking as soon as the level starts, so you have to think and act on your feet to make sure it doesn't fall through a hole or off a ledge. We're curious to see more of Echochrome because the basic mechanics are so unique and mind-bending; the lasting appeal of the game will come from the number of levels in the game and the level of ingenuity in their design.