After so many years of gaming, it's getting to the stage where puzzle games are severely lacking in variety or concept. Falling blocks or colour-matching circles have been done to absolute death, and while these basic ideas can still be addictive after all this time, we were starting to crave something new and fresh that actually made us think about what we were doing on an entirely different level. Echochrome is here to help, creating a series of challenging levels that are designed to make you think about perspective, what it means and how it can change even the most complicated level designs into a well thought out, yet somewhat oh so simple solution. It's not about matching colours or creating combos; it's about thinking differently and using your imagination effectively enough to find a solution when, logically speaking, there really shouldn't be a solution at all.
The concept of Echochrome is based on five 'laws' which you will need to remember if you are to advance through the puzzles successfully: Perspective travelling: When two separate pathways appear to be touching, they are; Perspective landing: If one pathway appears to be above another, it is; Perspective existence: When the gap between two pathways is blocked from view and the pathways appear to be connected, they are; Perspective absence: When a hole is blocked from view, it does not exist; and Perspective jump: When the mannequin jumps, it will land on what ever appears beneath it. Got that? Good. To sum it up, it's basically the concept that whatever you see is the reality - how something doesn't exist if you can't see it, and how two separate entities can appear as one if looked at from a particular angle.
Given that the entire game is about perspective, it makes sense that your point of view is the only thing that you can alter or 'control'. Moving the D-pad changes the angle you're looking at the puzzle from, and by lining it up in particular ways, the goal of each puzzle is to get your little mannequin-ish character from where he is initially positioned to various other positions within each stage. The mannequins all walk back and forth in a Lemmings fashion, waiting for you to eventually create a path for them of some kind, whether it be via connecting two platforms together as one or angling the stage so that when they fall through a hole, they'll land on an entirely different segment altogether rather than plummeting to their demise. While the characters can fall off the stage, this won't necessarily make you 'lose', but it will eat up a chunk of time, which is important considering the 'scoring' element of Echochrome is based on how fast you can complete each puzzle.
While some stages look fiendishly difficult, you'd be amazed how thinking differently makes things so much easier.
Things can get a little bit challenging at times, as your goal won't always be as simple as getting your one mannequin from point A to points B, C and D; each stage has a couple of alternate puzzles, including one which features two black and two white mannequins, which you must somehow make meet up with each others respective same colour on the stage. The other involves the same basic idea as the initial goal, meaning that you'll need to somehow direct your regular mannequin to a number of different points on the stage, but avoiding all other wandering mannequins in the process (which is actually more difficult than it sounds.) Every single stage in Echochrome can be played in any of the three different ways, and they're all unique enough from one another that you'll, for the most part, need to tackle the puzzle differently each time.
In terms of options, the game can be played in a couple of different ways, either in Freeform which lets the game randomly choose some puzzles for you to try out from the whole selection (you can adjust the difficulty too if you wish), while Atelier lets you select each puzzle you want to do from a massive list, meaning you can tackle the game however you want to. Then there is the Canvas mode, which is exactly what it sounds like, giving you the option to create your own stages which you can share with your friends by transferring them over to your friends PSP. It's handled a little better on the PlayStation 3 version where you can upload them to the network and share them with friends and others online, but it still works on the PSP if you and your friends have Echochrome, and really allows you to show your creativity and 'haha-I'm-so-cleverness' to your friends. It's also worth mentioning that the levels on the PSP version of the game are actually different from those on the PS3 version, so the PSP version certainly is able to stand on its own as a retail release, despite the cheaper downloadable alternative.
The entire production of the game can be described as minimalistic, using incredibly simple black and white lines to draw 3D stages. The simplicity may be off-putting for some who are still salivating over such titles as Chains of Olympus, but it is very effective and the clear and crisp way that the game is drawn is very useful for being able to clearly differentiate the platforms from one another, and probably wouldn't work as well conceptually otherwise. The sound is also simple and sounds very easy on the ears with a calming voice over and smooth soundtrack. The music can however get a little repetitive during long periods of play, so you may find yourself turning down the speakers sooner than you'd think, but in small doses it works well and fits in with the rest of the experience nicely.
If we're being picky with Echochrome, there are some minor flaws in its design; while changing perspective is all good in theory, there are some cases where you will be looking at a stage and maneuvering it in such a way that you will genuinely think it should be solved, but it just won't work for some reason. It's moments like these where frustration occurs, but they are few and far between and are only a small downside to what is otherwise a very polished product. The art style is somehow visually captivating and the gameplay is a whole new type of brain-scratcher that is very unique and something that should be played by anybody with an interest in testing their mind and challenging their perception. After all, seeing is believing.