Some people say it’s hard to tell a story without words. Others say a picture is worth a thousand words. How many words is an artistic piece such as Fossil Echo worth?
With little more than visual patterns and vague symbols, our silent protagonist, a small boy in an unnamed world climbs a tower that would put Babylon to shame. In this 2D platformer, you must jump, climb, and sneak your way up the tower, beyond the clouds, to reach the top.
This game was a decent length, not too long, not halfheartedly short. It went at a pace that allowed for the player to enjoy the effort that went into creating the art for it. And never once did these breathtaking visuals dip in their eye-catching quality. I even once found myself letting out a soft “whoa” when the scene transitioned into an ethereal night sky with all the characters and items in the foreground completely silhouetted against the background. Accompanying the amazing art was a great soundtrack to match. Not only did it compliment the visual style of the game, but its calmer, more eastern tones also kept me from getting too enraged by my own incompetence on the bonus levels.
The story was difficult to follow, but that seems to be the point. The game is shrouded in mystery. The player is given vague clues to reveal the protagonist’s backstory, and how it connects to his desire to climb the tower. Although going too deep into that would include spoilers. It took me a second playthrough to realize that the story was told backward, which was an interesting choice. It slowly revealed the boy’s motivations for seeking out this tower and the organization of trigger-happy ninjas, with their nifty archaic drones that vaguely resemble evil versions of the Golden Snitch from Harry Potter.
Moreover, the antagonists are pretty merciless. The second they catch sight of you, there is little chance you could dodge their bullets, and the only way to take them down is full on Rambo tackle them from a higher platform.
However, it wasn’t the trigger-happy ninjas of the mysterious spider logo (the symbol for their organization) that claimed most of my deaths. No, that award goes to the bonus levels. I don’t want to call them a bonus because while they seem optional, completing all of them unlocks an extra scene at the end of the game that ties the whole thing together. Without it, the game ends in a bit of a mystery.
These levels are ruthless, requiring you to hop across disappearing platforms at just the right time. Oh, and then there are wooden platforms that break after one use. Oh, and then some pegs that fall out if you hang on for too long. These same pegs must be used to leap to the wall, slide down, and then hop from wall to wall to yet another collapsing platform. These levels would make Ezio cry. They are ingenious ways to make a simple platformer so challenging, though. As frustrating as they were, they added another level of difficulty, another level of complexity. That being said, 34 deaths in a row might be a bit much. Yes, I counted.