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echochrome ii
Score: 90%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Developer: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Puzzle

Graphics & Sound:
echochrome ii breaks away somewhat from the simple-looking gameplay style of Echochrome, but still keeps to the core idea that all that really matters is what the player sees.

The previous game was all in black and white outlines of the 3D objects you were moving around. This time though, echochrome ii brings in not only color and depth, but also, and primarily, shadow. While all of the blocks keep their simplistic design, you are no longer walking your figure across the objects themselves. Instead, you are guiding them along the shadow being projected on the walls behind the floating blocks. So you see, the blocks having depth is sort of required now. Despite the added detail to the game, it still keeps to its minimalistic roots and doesn't offer anything too flashy. In fact, the only real color the game provides is that of a few of the blocks in order to give some visual cues to the player so that they know what blocks will form the exit or which ones will allow shadows to join and so on.

Audio wise, the game hasn't changed much. There is still the calm voice that guides you through the tutorial and the same low-key relaxing music emitting from your speakers. As a result, echochrome ii becomes another great game to come home to and chill after a stressful day at work because no matter how tough the puzzle might seem, it's just really hard to stay keyed up with the sounds this game produces.

Like I said above, echochrome ii breaks away from the odd M.C. Escher style of the previous game in that you won't be walking around endless staircases simply because the ends appear to meet up. Instead, the 3D perspective tricks are thrown out to have you move along the 2D projected shadow of the blocks along the back wall of the playing area.

How you control the world and your character this time also changes. While before, you used the Analog Sticks to rotate the world so certain details of the blocks are hidden or made apparent, this time, you will use the PlayStation Move as a light source in order to change the way the shadows connect. Much like the old game though, you will have to be wary of how your shadows fit together because your walking model will react to different projections in different ways.

If a shadow is too tall for the model to get on top of, he will simply turn around and walk the other way. If you have sphere's shadow coming from the top of the model's path, he will use it as a trampoline to go flying in the direction he is walking (which is great for getting over tall shadows). If he walks over a shadow will a hole in it, he will fall to a lower level, and with the use of archways connected by shadows, your model can travel across hard to reach areas like it's nothing. But, like the last game, its all about perspective. If you can't see the hole, or the other end of the archway isn't connected, your model won't react to it.

echochrome ii also changes things up a bit when it comes to your goal in each level. While the previous game's goal of guiding your character to all of the echos is still an option, there are two other game styles here as well.

Escort Mode simply has you making a path for the model in order to get him to the exit. In most levels, the exit itself won't appear unless you shine the light in a certain way to make the exit's shape, so the trick is not only getting your character to that spot, but doing it in such a way that the exit is actually there when you get there.

The other mode is Paint. Here, several colored models start walking around your shadow. As they walk, they paint the blocks the color that they are. The goal here is to paint a certain percentage of the level.

echochrome ii also offers a Create option that lets you build and share your own levels with the world. While I did try this option out for a while, I found that it simply wasn't for me. I know who this mode is for, and I can't wait to see the kinds of levels they come up with. Basically, this mode is for those people who build awesome new levels in LittleBigPlanet or spend more time tweaking the specs of their engines than actually driving in racing games. Personally, I am not that kind of gamer.

The final menu option echochrome ii offers is World. Here, you go online and browse the levels that other people (mostly the people mentioned in the previous paragraph) have built. These levels get ranked by the gamers and they are categorized by trickiness and how well they look. While the game comes with tons of levels on its own, it's this feature that has the potential to keep the game going.

echochrome ii starts off pretty simple with some basic levels to get your feet wet, but it isn't long before you have to do some serious light manipulation to get your model through the various parts of the level in order to get to the exit, or walk to all the echos, or paint enough blocks.

The first echochrome had a fairly steep learning curve that could really mess with your perspective, but it looks like this time around, things aren't nearly as difficult to pick up right from the start. You basically just have to have an understanding of shadow puppets to know how to manipulate the world, making this a much easier game to simply pick up and play.

Game Mechanics:
echochrome ii's biggest mechanic is, of course, using the Move controller to mess with the shadows you are walking across. Once properly calibrated, the game does a pretty good job of projecting the shadows where and how you would expect them to be projected. Since so much of this game is based on your ability to manipulate these shadows, any flaw in this part of the game would be an all out dealbreaker. Thankfully, that's not the case.

While I still like the original echochrome for its simplistic design and deceptively simple gameplay, I think echochrome ii takes the game in a good new direction that also uses the Move controller in an interesting way. If you have a Move and liked the previous title, then buying this game should be a no brainier. Even if you haven't played echochrome but you have a Move, you might want to consider downloading this game as well. I wouldn't though go out and buy the peripheral purely for this game because, while fun, it isn't worth that kind of extra cost.

-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

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