It’s often hard to find a game with a unique gameplay style, even if one were to delve into the vast variety of indie games. Few do manage to stand out, ECHOPLEX being one of them.
ECHOPLEX follows the story of an unnamed engineer, as he awakens in a room with no memory of who he is and how he got there. He then proceeds to navigate through a series of rooms in order to regain fragments of his memories. The backstory of the game illustrates that the engineer works for a company known as Clonochem Corporation, who have developed a controversial product entitled Continuum, which is protested by several groups of activists for fear of its potential misuse. The product enables its users to create “Echoes” of themselves: clones that mimic the user and everything they do with a delay of a few seconds.
The gameplay seems to be inspired by the more prominent games of the puzzle platformer genre, namely QUBE and Portal. The player navigates through a series of rooms in order to collect the fragments, which are then taken to the endpoint in order to reconstruct a part of the engineer’s memory. This is done by passing through a number of coloured fields which unlock specific doors, all the while attempting to avoid colliding with the echo, which is soon released and mimics your actions, after a short delay. Should you run out of time or collide with the echo, the whole level restarts. In various levels, the echoes are used to manipulate the openings of the doors, and multiple echoes are used in innovative ways to solve the mazes. Note that the echoes are not to collide with each other as well. Completion of each level results in obtaining a short memory, and multiple memories are integrated for a more cohesive outline of events.
With each memory reconstructed the game further attempts to divulge the relation between Continuum, the engineer, and a mysterious female activist. The memories are presented in a full-motion video format, which is a nice touch to the game as this makes for an immersive experience. However, the scenes contain voice overs and the actors do not have any dialogue, making the plot slightly difficult to follow.
The feeling of tension and excitement as one rushes to complete the level before their echo catches up to them, or before time runs out, provides quite a rush to the player. However, once the novelty of the experience fades, it leaves nothing but frustration. As the levels progress, they gradually increase in difficulty. Occasionally, it feels like some of them are dependent on luck, especially with the addition of new elements, such as the drones. The learning curve for the game seems adaptable to some, but it may be too steep to those who are unfamiliar to the puzzle genre, or to the casual gamer. This further exacerbates the frustration later on, with the levels getting continuously difficult while the rewards come off as unsatisfactory. A lot of time is spent on solving these mazes which require frequent trial and error, and the effort is only rewarded with a few seconds of plot advancement. A majority of the action feels irrelevant, as they serve as nothing but ways to increase the time spent in each scenario.
The acting in the full-motion video scenes is very good. The emotions expressed, especially in the absence of any dialogue, is fascinating to watch. The voice acting is decent, as both audios in the game have their moments and lapses.
The storyline of the game is rather brief and stays fairly abstract all the way to the end, which is appealing to those seeking such an experience, but offers no fulfilment to gamers searching for a conclusive ending. Why is Clonochem being targeted? What makes Continuum so dangerous? Who are the activists, and how are they carrying out their plans? Why do they fear Continuum? Why are there drones in the MEMRIP? Unfortunately, ECHOPLEX does not offer any definite answers to these questions, nor to the others that come up during the game.
To those seeking an interesting first person puzzle platformer, give ECHOPLEX a shot. It’s only a few hours long, and offers the right amount of difficulty to gamers experienced in puzzles.