Alter Echo was a relatively hyped game. Most online magazines had some in-depth previews of it and it sounded like quite a cool game. The question always is whether a game can live up to its hype or not…in this case it really didn’t, but the game is still good. In this game you play Nevin, part of a 3 person group group sent to check out on a rogue shaper (shape-shifter) named Paavo. Paavo just happens to be the best shaper there is AND he has created a new plast (which is used to create the suits used to shapeshift) called Echo Plast. Nevin and the crew are sent to find out exactly what Paavo’s plans are. He has harvested the EchoPlast of the planet and he can create monsters, ships, etc. out of the plast. He downs Nevin’s spaceship from orbit onto the planet. Nevin is left all alone, but the entity the plast comes from, Echo, decides to help you defeat his “Father” (Paavo). Sounds like a somewhat interesting setup, but the execution leaves much to be desired.
This game is full of blue and purple. Not necessarily a bad combination, but in this case the colors lead to an overall dull experience. I sat wondering what the heck Outrage was on when they made this game. Yes, this is a sci-fi game and of course that usually lends itself to having a wacky world to play on, but in many cases this is an extremely odd one. Taking away the environment graphics though, the rest of the graphics are pretty good. Nevin (the lead character) is animated quite well and doing all his combos are done well. Even the camera does a nice job of following Nevin in his different forms. I have not played the Xbox version (Eldon will review that), but the Playstation 2 version does slow down from time to time, but it isn’t a game-destroying slowdown.
Enemies, although they repeat the same ones over and over, are also well animated. The problem here is that there’s a heck of a lot of spawning going on in this game, so you see the same enemies over and over again. At least they disappear in a cool way…evaporating in the Echoplast they were made from.This game has nice music, sound effects and some questionable voice acting and/or storyboard. Whoever wrote the dialogue in this game needs to go back and learn how to write an engaging story. Let’s start with the voice actor for Nevin…he says his lines too sarcastically. If I was in his situation I’d be more awestruck about getting a suit that I can morph into different forms with. The other voice actors force their lines a bit too much while Echo and Paavo’s voice actors do a good job with the crappy dialogue (Echo especially) they are given.
Control takes a while to get used to because there are tons of moves/combos you can deliver from the gamepad. Morph combos are especially hard to pull off because you have to switch forms and hit an attack button to finish off the combo. Each form has different controls, but the important ones to remember are the morphing controls on L1 and R1 and the targeting button of R2. These are constants throughout the 3 forms.
The biggest problem with this game in regards to controls is that the camera view on this game is way too close to the character. Luckily this game doesn’t have many “falls of death” in it and there are rarely any gaps to jump over at all. I don’t understand the need to have the camera so close other than holding down the amount of things shown in a screen for the console itself. Enemies can attack you from all sides and you have no clue where they are behind you because the camera is too close to you. The right analog stick can rotate the camera, but it would still be cool to have a wider area of view.
Alter Echo is a fun ride for the short time it takes to beat the game (under 10 hours). This game has slight advantages over your run-of-the-mill platform game, although it’s more in concept and not in actual gameplay. In this game you can choose between 3 morphs: sword form (quick, basic form), gun form (large, gun-equipped, slow) and stealth form (walk on special walls, invisibility, tongue grab). This is all well and good and the whole first “level” is you getting used to the morphs…but then Paavo takes them away from you and you have to recapture them. The problem is for the time you only have your sword form things can get quite difficult. This game is at its coolest when you are able to do combos that use every form. The higher number of hit combos you do the more plast you receive in order to do purchase new moves, weapons, etc. at the end of a level. In many ways this game is a cross between your basic platform game and Devil May Cry. As you receive plast you are given the choice of things to buy such as weapons and combo moves at the end of a level (ala Devil May Cry).
There are also 2 special modes in the game: time stopping and sync sections. In each you are put into a rhythm-type subgame where you have to connect two points via directional buttons. The key thing is you have to do your presses in a certain section of the “time bar” at the bottom of the screen. The farther you move, the faster you have to press your buttons. It’s sort of like a maze where you try to connect two or more points. The time stop mode gives you a chance to defeat all enemies on the screen at one time. If you link them all together you will usually eliminate them all. In the sync sections you connect two nodes and then you manipulate the room you are in. You do such things as building a bride from plast, opening a door, etc. It is a pretty cool thing, but I don’t like the sub-game in itself. I know that switches are old hat in platformers (they’re in here too), but the sub-games are such a different dynamic than your usual platform game that it feels out of place.
The overall game is pretty short and some of the interior rooms look a lot alike (dark and purple). “Ah yes, another purple room” was something I uttered as I was going through this game. It’s not that this game is crappy, it’s just that it is trying something new and it just didn’t quite reach the level it is hoping for. It’s a throwaway Sci-Fi story put into the form of an action/platform game. It does not even reach the greatness of such games as Ratchet and Clank and Sly Cooper, games it is in direct competition with on a genre level. The morph idea is cool, it just needs a better storyline and a more interesting gameplay experience.
Chances are you will get through Alter Echo once and not want to play it again. To me it just doesn’t have the story to grab ahold of me and make me want to play it again. Once through is more than enough for me. Other than for the combo system, I can’t see anyone going back to play this game. As I said above, this game isn’t crappy, it’s just too short and boring. This can easily be considered a rental.Alter Echo does a good job in bringing something new to the platform table, but it just doesn’t overcome its weaknesses in level design, overall control and the fact that it doesn’t stand out as a high-quality platformer. What it does have is the morph ability, but the coolness of that can only last for so long. However, Alter Echo is a new platform game and if you’re into them maybe you’d like to rent this game. I would hold off on spending your money for a platform game in the future if you are into the genre.