ECHO: Secrets of the Lost Cavern


Genre:   Adventure

Developer:    Kheops Studio

Publisher:    The Adventure Company

Released:  2005

PC Requirements:    Windows® 98/ME/2000/XP, Pentium® III 800 MHz, 64 MB RAM, 64 MB DirectX® Compatible 3D Graphics Card, DirectX® 7 Compatible Sound Card, 16x CD-ROM Drive



Additional screenshots



by Becky


In 1940, a group of French teenagers discovered a hole that had opened in the earth among the roots of a dead tree.  Rocks thrown into the hole sent back deep echoes.  One particularly adventurous young man, Marcel Ravidat, later returned with a different group of friends to climb down the hole and follow the echoing sounds.  To their astonishment, they came across colorful paintings of animals that covered the walls of the underground cavern. 

The paintings were ancient – having remained hidden and undisturbed for seventeen thousand years.   The artists who created them left no trace except the paintings themselves.  Who were these visionaries from the past whose creations danced, leapt and galloped their way across these ancient walls?

ECHO: Secrets of the Lost Cavern attempts to answer that question.  The story in the game is a classic coming-of-age quest about a young man not so very different from those teenagers who, millennia later, followed the echoes and rediscovered the caverns of Lascaux.

In ECHO, the player takes on the role of Arok, a young Cro-Magnon hunter from the Upper Paleolithic era. Years earlier, as a child, Arok had met a stranger who told him about the art of cave painting.  Now the young hunter has stumbled across clues that the stranger left behind.  Arok decides to risk everything in the ambition to become an artist, and he follows a path through a series of mysterious caverns in hopes of finding the stranger.


Transported to a Land of Ancient Wonder…

The game begins in a snowy primeval forest, as Arok seeks shelter during an encounter with a hungry cave lioness.

ECHO is a first person perspective, point-and-click adventure with 360-degree panning.  It takes the player on a journey through spectacular natural scenery, recreated in photorealistic detail.  You’ll see a misty mountain path, a verdant meadow in the warm light of mid afternoon, a white water stream, a night encampment under the haloed moon.

Ambient sounds enrich the worlds.  You’ll hear the crackling of a fire, the howling of the wind (and the wolves), water dripping from stalactites.  Noises echo through the caverns. 

The music combines modern and ancient instruments and suits the historical setting well.  Rhythmic percussion predominates, often using primitive instruments like lithophones and shells to achieve special effects.  Occasionally -- at moments of emotion or triumph -- you’ll hear strings and the human voice.  At those moments the music evokes an emotion that I would describe as a deeply wistful yearning.   

My only real criticism of the game’s sound is that when I turned up the volume to hear the music, the voices of the game characters were much too loud.  A chance to adjust music volume separately from dialog volume would have been appreciated.


… I Made my Way Among Men

Arok encounters a handful of characters as he pursues his quest.  ECHO’s designers have taken great care to present these characters – their clothing, ornaments, and possessions – with as much historical accuracy as possible (based on findings of other contemporary peoples).  Each of the characters that Arok meets has a distinct personality.  Each one forces Arok to prove himself.  They have something to teach him, and they move him further along on his quest.  The characters in ECHO are well animated, however they do tend to remain rooted in one spot, busy with a repetitive activity.  The voice acting for the characters is good – the only exception being the occasions in which Arok sounds a bit too earnest.

Arok carries a considerable inventory as he travels.  You bring up the inventory by right-clicking with the mouse.  The inventory is easy to use and, for the most part, inventory items are easy to locate.  There’s a magnifying glass that allows you to examine inventory items – when you do this, the main screen darkens so that you can see each item more clearly – an example of the game designers’ attention to detail.

Also on the inventory screen are icons that allow you to access the in-game documentary data base.  At first, only part of the information from the database is accessible.  As you progress through the game, more information is unlocked – when more is available, a shell-like icon appears on the game screen.  I thought this was a nice feature, as it rewarded success with further background detail.

The database occasionally held information that tangentially helped with a puzzle challenge.  But more often it served to give a sense of the vast swath of time between the primitive world of the game and the modern world of the gamer.

Gradually, you learn more about Arok’s people from the perspective of modern scientists – how Cro-Magnon Man survived, how he created beautiful ornaments, what he might have thought about his world.  This is the most intriguing in-game database/encyclopedia that I’ve seen (and I’ve seen many).    After satisfying your curiosity about an aspect of Paleolithic culture, with one click you’re out of the realm of scientific conjecture and back into the gameworld, swept up in an encounter with a bear, or trying to start a fire, or staring up at a rock formation, puzzling over the symbols on its surface.

There is an in-game Objectives Journal (also accessible from the inventory screen) which records your progress and gives you a bit of direction in terms of the challenge that Arok is currently facing.  This is a helpful feature if you are the sort of person who will take several days or weeks to play the game, and therefore might have trouble recalling exactly what was happening when you last exited the game.  The journal does make solving the puzzles somewhat easier, so if you want an even greater challenge, don’t consult it until absolutely necessary.  Expert gamers can make their way through the game without even glancing at the Objectives Journal.


I Ate, Drank and Toiled as One of Them

There are a wide variety of puzzles in ECHO. Some are survival challenges where you must use the environment (and what you find in it) creatively.  There are pattern observation puzzles (some involve distinguishing colors), inventory item puzzles, construction challenges, simple tone matching puzzles, even an anti-timed-puzzle challenge  -- you fail if you move too fast.  Hotspots within the puzzles can be difficult to find, so close observation (sometimes in unexpected places) is necessary.  Some of the puzzles let you mess about with pigments and art tools, which is a lot of fun.  Many of the puzzles involve the paintings and symbols on cavern walls, and these transform themselves when solved.  I found watching them to be delightful.

There are variations on traditional puzzles, and some of these I liked less than the others.  There’s a maze that’s actually a pattern interpretation challenge.  There’s a jigsaw puzzle that’s actually a pixel-hunting challenge.  And there’s a slider puzzle that is a new “take” on sliders.  These three particular challenges definitely arrested my progress in the game for quite awhile.  That tuft of hair you pick up beside the entrance to the main cavern was torn directly from my head.


Often, in Dreams, I Return

ECHO: Secrets of the Lost Cavern surprised me.  I was surprised at the artistry and ingenuity of “primitive” man.  The characters in Arok’s world experience a knowledge of and connection to the natural world that has somehow been lost in more modern times. 

At the game’s heart are the wall paintings from caverns like the one at Lascaux, and once the game is finished these images are hard to get out of your mind.  Their rediscovery in 1940 brought crowds of sightseers (rightly so – there is much to marvel at).  Attempts to circulate the air and to admit admiring crowds caused the artwork to degrade so rapidly that now most of these paintings are no longer available for public view.  In ECHO, the gamer works her way through various challenges in a fascinating primeval environment, arriving at last to see these treasures fresh and unspoiled.


Quick List for ECHO: Secrets of the Lost Cavern

First person perspective, point-and-click, 360-degree panning.  An entertaining glimpse into prehistory.  Startlingly beautiful natural surroundings, rhythmic, occasionally wistful music.  Interaction with a small cast of characters.

A well constructed in-game database allows you to learn more if you wish, but the game stands on its own even if you never consult it.  Inventory puzzles, pattern interpretation, construction challenges.  Simple musical tone matching puzzles, a faux maze, a “Towers of Hanoi” puzzle, one difficult, unusual slider.  No puzzles that require quick reflexes.  You can die at one point, but are quickly returned to the moment before you foolishly stepped in a particular spot.

ECHO loaded and played without a glitch.  There’s a family friendly main menu – several people can save their own games.  Saves are unlimited and you can save anywhere except in the middle of animations or self-contained puzzle sequences.

ECHO: Secrets of the Lost Cavern is aimed at gamers who enjoy a coming-of-age puzzle quest while exploring extraordinary, detailed, primeval environments.   

Final Grade:  A-


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