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XBLIG inspection: Halfbrick Echoes

An ongoing look at some of the titles available on XBLIG, with an emphasis on both excellence and originality...

Note: this is based on the review located at http://www.xboxindiegames.co.uk/ - along with over 1500 more!

Back when XBLIG first kicked off, a number of developers decided to experiment with producing series of games - by either reusing their IP to produce sequels/spinoffs or by creating a series of unrelated games under a single named brand.  Sadly, sales at the time didn't meet expectations, and these pioneers generally bowed out - though a year or so later, the efforts of radiangames has shown that there's at least some potential in the concept! 

In any case, these efforts produced some of the most interesting games on the platform - for instance, Arkedo's Jump! is one of the finest platformer games ever made and their Pixel! isn't too far behind.  Meanwhile, Halfbrick produced a triplet of polished and innovative titles, of which the most notable is Echoes...

 Boxart

The developers themselves described Echoes as a cross between Pac-Man and Braid. However, while these are clearly influences, the game is more than capable of standing on it's own two feet - if anything, it actually has bears more similarities with arena shooters such as Robotron - while there may not be any guns or violence, there's the same focus on tracking multiple opponents and quick, tactical movement.

In essence, Echoes is a top-down maze game: crystals appear in a fixed sequence and must be collected by our hat-wearing heroine. However, there's a catch: each time she picks up a crystal, she generates an "echo": a clone which tracks back and forward along the route she took to get to the crystal. With each new crystal collected, more and more echoes appear, forcing the player to essentially dodge themselves!

Screenshot

To keep things interesting, there's a number of additional gameplay elements: some crystal types can help eliminate echoes, while some levels feature safe zones which can be used to get out of a tricky situation.  As the maps get more complex, tactical play becomes essential - for instance, travelling in a straight line to get a crystal may mean that you'll later find your way blocked by the echo! It all boils down to timing and quick improvisation, making for a fun challenge - success or failure is entirely down to the player's actions, so there's never a reason to be frustrated by the game.  There's also a lot of variety for players to tuck into: the developers included a wide range of maps and a set of unlockable challenges and additional play modes.

Screenshot

 

Better yet, the gameplay is wrapped up in some very attractive artwork, rendered in a brushstroke style. The soundtrack is a little out of place - dance-rock doesn't really go with the victorian-schoolgirl design of the protagonist, but it's certainly far from offensive.

 

Screenshot

 

All told, Echoes is One of the better games on XBIG, and one which should be high on the list of titles for all XBIG gamers to try!

 

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