ECHO: Secrets of the Lost Cavern
Edit: Click on title for hotlink to updated review
ECHO: Secrets of the Lost Cavern
Intriguing! That was my impression of this game and it lasted through the final cut scene. ECHO installed easily and quickly. And then—oh fun—time to play!
ECHO features beautiful scenery and an interesting and compelling story line. It also tenders inventive and fanciful puzzles seamlessly woven into its plot. I love the prehistoric setting of the game, perhaps because it is so unusual. The in-game data base is an enjoyable bonus and the interface is easy to use. It played flawlessly with no patches.
My definition of a good game is one in which time is suspended while I am playing; one that I think about and anticipate playing even when I am busy with other things—you know, like real life. I may be busy dealing with the messy minutiae of life, but my mind dwells serenely in the game. This game provided that for me. ECHO drew me into its spell from the opening snow-filled mountain scene and kept me entranced there ‘til the last Spirit danced. I cared about the main character and was intrigued to follow the unfolding events of his life.
ECHO is the tale of Arok, a young man on an accidental journey of self-discovery, wrapped around the facts of the Lascaux cave paintings and set during the era of their creation. It tells the story of Arok’s search for and voyage toward his own destiny. While out hunting one day he finds a cave which awakens long forgotten memories of his childhood. He enters the cave unaware that, with this single step, his life will forever change.
ECHO is a first person, point and click game and, to my delight, it is Alt+Tab friendly. You must have Disk Two in the CD drive to play the game. The box lists keyboard and mouse, but I only used the keyboard to access the main menu (Esc) and to skip through opening scenes (Space). All other functions are mouse controlled. There is a subtitle option.
Moving in the game is easy and intuitive. The cursor changes to an arrow to indicate when/where you can go. In one or two places I had to pass the area or item I needed and then look back to find what I was seeking. The camera pans very quickly (which I know can be a problem for some folks), but this can be slowed down from the options menu.
Both left and right mouse buttons are used—left clicking moves, picks up, etc.—right click to bring up inventory, the data base, and the journal. The data base gives bits of information which are sometimes helpful in the game. The journal records Arok’s objectives, which in turn sometimes provide hints.
ECHO allows multiple people to play the game using separate avatars to sign in, though each will be Arok in the game. This allows each person to play the game at her own pace without overwriting someone else’s game.
Though I would like to have been able to adjust the volume of the sound effects and voice independently from the music, this was not an option.
Graphics and Sound:
This is one beautiful game, especially the outdoors settings. The graphics are immersive and well done—the ground rises and falls, cave walls cry out to be touched, and the cave paintings are beautiful. It is a game full of movement--horses toss their heads, butterflies flutter, birds soar, the rushes wave, water flows and burbles, and snow flakes drift downward. Sometimes lip movement and sound were not exactly in sync, but not to the point of being a distraction. In fact, I had to look twice to be sure it was there. While not photorealistic, the people, animals, and scenery all combine to form a world that is intrinsically pleasing.
The music is pleasing and unintrusive. Ambient sounds always play an important role in immersing me in any game and ECHO does this well. I particularly noticed this in one scene as Arok drew near a fire the sound of the fire moved with him—changing from my right to left ear, fading as he left the fire and increasing as he approached it. I thought the voice acting was very good, giving emotion to each character.
Game Play and Puzzles:
ECHO is a linear story which details Arok’s odyssey as he searches for Klem (his mentor) and ultimately, his own destiny. Puzzles are integrated into the story in a sensible way and involve accomplishing tasks in a manner similar to the way Arok might have done them. There are no dead ends and no red herrings, no mini-games, and though Arok can ‘die’ in one situation—he is instantly restored. Because there are no timing restraints, I often took a break in the puzzle solving and just enjoyed the surroundings--relishing the soaring birds, the falling snow, and the rushing water.
Many of the puzzles are logical—finding what Arok needs before he can enter a dark cave, learning how to make paint from items on hand, and discovering how to get food and cook it, for example. Others are more fanciful in nature. Some of the more charming aspects of ECHO are the wall fresco puzzles which oft times provide the answers to Arok’s problems. Watching the frescoes come to life fascinated me.
Many puzzles are inventory based or inventory/combination based, with the items needed found close by. There is some ‘to and fro,’ but not a lot.
There is one maze, and one unique slider that I needed a walkthrough for in order to solve.
Some puzzles require color discrimination. I found that the black and brown could be difficult to differentiate on my monitor.
Happily there are no sound based puzzles. Several puzzles use “music stones.” My heart sank when the first of these appeared, but never fear--they actually require logic and observation, not musical knowledge nor recognition of notes or tones to complete. However, the striker on the “musical stone puzzles” can be finicky about placement and so was often frustrating. In some puzzles, the sequence of tones had to be repeated several times and sometimes in specific rhythms to move things along. This seemed unnecessarily difficult to me. I was never quite sure if what I was doing was the correct thing or not—at least until the magic happened and the fresco came to life.
Refreshingly, there is a puzzle requiring to you organize and tell a story—a unique approach and one I enjoyed.
One puzzle does require some dexterity, but I was able to get through it by just “slinging” away. Depending on your previous choices, you might skip that one. There are no arcade sequences.
A few puzzles allow only a limited number of chances to complete them. This type of puzzle resets itself when the allotted numbers of attempts are tried. Arok (the gamer) can pause as long as he likes to think between each action. Each effort results in learning more about the correct sequence of actions, and then you are on to the rest of the story.
Several puzzles required multiple steps to solve—change the color of this element and then turn that piece, for example. I was completely baffled at times, until I figured out the process; then I knew to look for that element in subsequent puzzles. I never did any pixel hunting or note taking.
ECHO has unlimited saves (Esc key), but you cannot name them. You must use the date and time supplied by the game as the save name.
The game is on the short side of the spectrum, but it still manages to feel complete and it ended beautifully.
ECHO reminds me of Syberia in overall tone. The outdoor scenery is breathtaking. Sometimes, I stopped playing and simply feasted on the environment—looking up at the soaring birds, watching the butterflies, or the ponies tossing their heads. It is a very 'visual' game with striking scenery. The interface is easy to use. The puzzles are, more often than not, logical and interesting and they are solvable with only the knowledge found in the game. I love the originality of the wall frescoes puzzles, and the story puzzle. You can save as often and whenever you like. There is a lot to like in this game!
Arok’s tale immersed me and absorbed me because I cared about him and was eager each day to see what he would do and how he would do it. ECHO is definitely a keeper—a game that I know I will some day replay.
• Subtitle option
• Alt tab friendly
• Point and click
• Unlimited saves
• Separate manual
• Appealing story line
• Played flawlessly
• Visually beautiful game
• Inventive puzzles integrated into story
• Inventory puzzles
• Logic puzzles
• 1 Maze
• No mini-games
• No real music puzzle
• Slider with a new twist
• Very little ‘to and fro’
• First person view point
• No pixel hunting
• Immersive environment
• Can “die” once, but are immediately restored
• Space bar skips through opening credits
• In game journal
• Data base was interesting but not intrusive
• Ability to have more than one player playing at same time
• Most puzzles reset by backing out of them
• No real timed puzzles
• Free panning camera can be slowed down
• Background music, voices, and ambient sounds all well done
• Comes on 2 CD’s in paper sleeves in the box—no jewel case
• Striker on musical stone puzzle is difficult to manipulate to the exact spot
• Some puzzles require repetition of rhythmic pattern
• Can’t name saves; must accept default date/time name
• One puzzle did not reset by backing out
• Some of the puzzles depend on color, and occasionally I found the colors difficult to discern—black vs. brown in particular
• One puzzle may require some dexterity
I played on:
Operating System: Win XP Professional SP1
CPU: 3.2 GHz Intel Pentium 4
Memory: 1 GB Dual Channel DDR400 SDRAM
Sound Card: DirectX Version: 9.0b
Video Card: 128 DDR NVIDIA Geforce FX5200 Ultra