Like a fly to a bright light I rushed out to get Echochrome. Not the primal PlayStation 3 version. No, I had to have the whole Echochrome package.
I grabbed the PSP release because it has “more” puzzles.
Echochrome PSP (for the duration I’ll call it Echochrome Plus like they do in Asia so we won’t have any more naming confusion) really has more challenges, but it is because there are three different rule sets: solo, pair and others. Solo is what you experienced if you played the echochrome demo. You guide the endlessly walking cast to touch shadowy echoes. Collect them all and you win.
Pair is more complicated because there are four casts walking on the stage. Two are white and the other two are black. You have to guide the black casts and white casts to touch each other so they turn into shadowy figures. Then you have to make the shadowy figures collide to complete the level.
Others is probably the most challenging configuration because the black casts from pair become antagonistic. If you touch one of the “others” you’re warped back to a starting point or the last echo you touched. The key to completing these stages is to isolate the others on unused platforms or to constantly make them fall off the screen. Even if they plunge of a platform the others respawn at a starting point, just like your cast, within a few seconds. There is a trick to playing with the others, if your cast respawns you blink and temporarily phase past the other casts without respawining. In some levels I found jumping off a ledge after touching an echo was a quick way to skirt by one of the others opposed to the isolation strategy.
Echochrome Plus shuffles through three versions of the same puzzles in infinite mode where you attempt to tackle eight of them. Once you select infinite mode a cast falls from the sky in the center of the screen. On the bottom right hand corner you can see something that appears to be a volume meter and a partially filled in infinity sign. The volume meter is actually a difficulty gauge with five levels. One is the easiest, five is the hardest. You choose which one suits you before a level is loaded. The infinity meter is broken into eight parts and it acts as a progress report. Ah, eight is infinity rotated 90 degrees. Ha!
I didn’t want to be over confident with my write up so I knocked the difficulty down to level one, the easiest setting. This was my first challenge…
With a “good luck” in English I started my journey into the infinite corridor. I attacked this puzzle by fusing the loop together by rotating the puzzle into place. This made the cast walk directly over a fan (represented by a white circle). The cast leaped into the air and on the upper ledge to grab the first echo. The cast continued walking on the still fused platform into a black circle, a hole, and it fell directly on the lower ledge of the separate piece. Remember, these weren’t originally linked and I rotated outwards so the cast wouldn’t touch a fan and jump upwards. However, I wasn’t quick enough and the cast leaped onto the other fan into the blank abyss. Instead of having to start the entire puzzle over the cast respawned back where I got the first echo, it was on the upper ledge stretching its arms out. I guided the cast along the same path, but with a slight change of plan. After the cast fell on the lower ledge I hit triangle. This puts the cast in a thinking pose and halts its movement until you hit triangle again. With the cast locked into place it was easy to block the fan by rotating the puzzle so the hole covers it. After the cast completed one lap I grabbed the second echo. The third echo was on top. To get there I used the fan I just blocked to make the cast jump. Once it landed the cast begun walking towards the hole. I pressed triangle again to freeze the puzzle, blocked the hole and held X down to make the cast run towards the third echo. Suddenly, a fourth echo appeared, right which was the cast’s starting point.
I attempted to speed things up so I positioned the black hole right above the other ledge. However, this made the cast fall directly into the fan and jump up on the second ledge. Good thing this ledge had a hole so the cast could fall down without any difficulty.
Now to try a harder puzzle. How about difficulty level two, the default setting? This puzzle has a bunch of floating staircases and “others” to worry about. I begun this stage by fusing the staircase containing the cast with the one holding the echo on the bottom. Pressing the square button to “snap” the two pieces together is the best way to make sure the blocks are interlocked. After grabbing the echo I paused in thinking mode to block the hole with the L shaped piece holding a lone echo and waited for my cast to walk back to its starting point. I carefully rotated the staircase into position with the L shaped ledge and captured the second echo. The next step was to trap the two others on one of the floating staircases. One was walking on an L shaped piece and the other a floating staircase. Similar to the last step, I snapped the two pieces they were walking on together. You can’t hold X to make the others speed up. They walk at their own pace. While waiting I froze my cast in thinking mode at the top of the original staircase, waiting for a chance to snap the other L shaped piece with the starting staircase. However, as soon as I fused the two blocks I was too eager and moved the analog stick and the cast plummeted to nothingness. Echochrome is a game of patience. I reconfigured the puzzle and grabbed the third echo. However, two of the others were waiting for me blocking any chance to get the fourth echo. I had to remove them and I used the fan in the middle of the stage to help. When the fan is fused to the echo the two others jumped back to the original ledge and I got the fourth echo. However, a fifth echo appeared at the starting point (a trend with many of the puzzles) and I had to move the two others onto the staircase with the hole to remove them. Instead of keeping them there, I let both of them fall into the hole, which forces the others to go back to their starting point. With the ledge free of obstructions I made the cast walk on the fan to collect the final echo for another win.
These puzzles were pretty easy, but Echochrome can be difficult. Here is a taste of a difficulty level five puzzle…
However, Echochrome doesn’t have to be difficult. At any point you can pause the game and select skip. A voice calmly says, “Ok let’s try a new level” and you can reset the difficulty or attempt doing another puzzle with the same rating. If there is any true enemy in Echochrome it’s time. After so many minutes try a puzzle chimes will play indicating you better hurry up. If you fail to do so the same voice says, “Aww… too bad” and all the casts on screen shake as if they had a migraine. Completing the eight puzzles doesn’t mean you get fanfare either. Infinite flashes on the screen and you’re taken to the main menu to try more puzzles. Perhaps, on the same map. Echochrome Plus initially has 96 maps, rated A-L and numbered one through eight. Each one can be done in three ways: solo, pair or others, which means there is a total of 288 puzzles in Echochrome Plus.
You can make more using canvas mode, but you can only trade puzzles with players locally through ad-hoc play. I’m disappointed there isn’t a huge database you can upload maps to, but I guess with the PSP it’s easy enough to trade data online. However, you cannot export puzzles. The only way to upload data is to put your entire save file online. This means you have to replace your save file if you want to experience new puzzles too. Canvas mode is really a neat part about Echochrome, it allows users to expand the game, but it’s so inconvenient to use. I wonder how many people are going to go through the trouble of trading puzzles. For now I won’t be bothered by this because I’m stuck trying to solve the level three and four puzzles.
Each one gets completed on a subway ride.