Would you find it easy to forget all those things learned by mankind during the last 17.000 years and try to survive having very little to help you against the toughest challenges? How difficult would it be to start a fire only using your hands? How challenging would it be to manage to walk away in one piece after encountering a huge bear or a ferocious lion when you don’t have a weapon at hand? How hard would it be to catch your food without any modern tools at your disposal? Does painting pictures in different colors without the proper accessories sound viable?
All those tasks that may seem impossible to you are a regular part of your character Arok’s everyday life. And the reason is pretty simple: you live in the Paleolithic era, in 15000BC. You are called to embark on a journey using only the means that you would have if you lived so many millennia ago. Your adventure begins when Arok, a fifteen year-old Homo Sapiens actually, decides to abandon his group in search of a charismatic shaman named Klem. Having met the shaman a few years ago, Arok is fascinated by Klems paintings. Following the signs his mentor left behind, Arok sets off on an obscure path that is full of surprises. In order to reach the “Lost Cavern” and Klem, Arok must find his way through a labyrinth of caves, construct his own tools and weapons to hunt the beasts that threaten him, succeed in catching fish to satisfy his hunger, learn to paint and to listen to the spirits of the world.
During this adventure Arok will meet three other characters: Toar, a man that will offer Arok valuable advice and useful tools; Tika, Klem’s daughter, an initiate to the art of painting, who will guide Arok to the “Lost Cavern” as soon as he proves himself worthy; and Lharik, a standoffish young man who will not allow Arok to enter the “Lost Cavern” if he doesn’t successfully pass his little trial first. In the end, Arok will of course meet Klem himself, and they will together awaken the spirits of the world through a magical rite.
That is all you come across through your wanderings in the world of ECHO. In this prehistoric adventure, you will experience the challenge of places and circumstances lost in time. You will witness the revival of human habits thousands of years ago, and the magic that is hiding in the walls of the grottos.
However, all the excitement that ECHO deprives you through its story is freely offered to you through its puzzles. This is a game that is strongly driven by its puzzles, even though Kheops chose not to reuse the system from their previous project Return to Mysterious Island, where players could assemble and disassemble various objects in the inventory. On the contrary, in ECHO you can’t combine anything (obviously these guys like extremity!) in your inventory. Nonetheless, in several places of the game you will encounter hot spots where you will have to construct a tool, essentially combining two or more of your inventory items by using them on the same hotspot.
I have to mention that the quantity of the puzzles you will come across in this game is highly satisfying. Unlike the norm, where you have to search for hotspots in order to proceed with the adventure, ECHO guides you from one puzzle to another. Moreover, a very pleasant detail of the game is that despite the plethora of puzzles, not at a single point will you feel like it was added just to obstruct you or to lengthen the game. Right from the first moments you become aware that you have to follow a mysterious and well-hidden path that you could only find if you decipher the signs left by Klem.
As far as the quality of the puzzles is concerned, only one word comes to mind: ingenious! Kheops has managed to create many quite imaginative puzzles that at the same time are indissolubly related to the era and the environment of the game, in their every detail. As Arok you will have to (not that you don’t want to of course!) find ways of lighting fires to illuminate your way, paint frescos using self-made tools, and confront wild animals with your mind and not with your physical strength. You will have to figure out how to cross a lake, ‘reform’ frescos so that they’ll show you the way, catch your food, and cook it using more self-made tools. You will narrate your own adventure using frescos and various items and play music in order to contact the spirits of the world.
ECHO has some puzzles which are fairly demanding. One of them is a broken tablet that you have to put back together in order to see its drawings. The drawings are then used as instructions to paint a fresco. Another one is a rather complicated puzzle that is nothing less than a kind of slider. It consists of 3*5 square pieces that you have to put back in their original place so that the picture will be revealed. To do so, you have to relatively move the square pieces in groups of four. What makes the solution of this puzzle quite difficult is that each square piece can change two colors and shapes, increasing the number of possible combinations. I personally believe that this is by far the most challenging puzzle of ECHO. However, all the puzzles in the game, despite the difficulty of some of them, are based on logic and do not require any luck, trial and error procedures, or disturbed imagination in order to surpass them.
Graphics - Music:
ECHO’s is played from a first-person perspective with full 360 degree rotation. The graphics and are characterized by intense colors that remain in your memory for quite some time. Even though the places you will visit are not many, they are all well-designed and impressive, pulling you in this prehistoric era in a remarkable way. There are few cinematic sequences in the game, but they all feel as though they were designed with care. The animated frescos you will come across are ingenious and designed in an attractive yet at the same time primitive way.
The music is proper for the environment of the game. However it is not exceptional in quality. The sound effects on the other hand give vivacity to the landscape and help immersing players into the game’s world.
ECHO is a rather short game with a substandard story and skin-deep characters. It represents, however, the Eden’s land of puzzles and it offers you a very good opportunity to experience how people lived 17.000 years ago. In conclusion, ECHO is a worthy game although I could not recommend it to everyone. Those of you who prefer story driven adventures will not find much of interest in this game. However, those of you who like adventures to be rich in puzzles, in quantity as well as in quality, will love this game and should not miss it.
Let me put one final note here to mention that there is an encyclopedia in the game, from where you can learn a lot of interesting things about the people of the era, their art, and their tools. I truly believe that everyone should dedicate some extra time to ECHO just to read the information in the encyclopedia and learn a thing or two about our ancestors. ECHO is a fine game, that’s for sure. But at the same time it is an excellent source of knowledge for the prehistoric era, our ancestors, and their habits.
The original Greek version of this article can be found at Adventure Advocate.