3-D action genre has become increasingly crowded in the last couple of
years. Seemingly every developer has rolled out some hip, edgy new
mascot character and slapped them into a big 3-D world and sent you on a
quest to collect mystical crap. A lot of the time they are little more
than uninspired run and jump games that dont add anything new to the
genre. Developer Outrage Games hopes to buck that trend with Alter Echo
and in many areas they succeed. Alter Echo features a few unique
gameplay elements that are a lot of fun, but the poor camera and
targeting systems drag the whole experience down. It has more to offer
than most 3-D action titles, but it is ultimately just as forgettable.
The story in
Alter Echo takes place far in the future where a special substance has
been discovered called plast that is only found on a planet called
Proteus, which is made entirely out of the stuff. Psychically empowered
people called shapers can mold the plast to form anything and everything
from buildings to spaceships. The most gifted of the shapers, known as
Paavo, has created a powerful new form of plast known as echoplast, and
he intends to use it to build an army and rule the galaxy. That is where
your character steps in. As a young but very gifted, shaper named Nevin,
it is up to you to battle Paavos echoplast minions and save the day.
When Nevin arrives on Proteus, he finds that he has an unexpected but
very powerful ally. When Paavo created echoplast he inadvertently caused
the plast to come alive. Now the planet Proteus itself wants to help you
to defeat Paavo.
Youll fight your
way through the game with the use of a suit made entirely out of
echoplast. The suit has three very powerful forms, and you can switch
between them at will. In the default form, you can quickly move around
and explore and you have a large sword. The gun form turns you into a
hulking mech that can shoot enemies far away as well as launch grenades
or simply swat at enemies with your massive gun arm. The third form is a
stealth form that turns you into a lizard-like creature that can turn
invisible as well as climb on specially marked surfaces throughout the
game. You can quickly switch between the forms at will using the
shoulder buttons, so it is possible to get pretty creative with
combining attacks from different forms.
The focus of the
combat in the game is on combination attacks so you can earn points so
you can upgrade your suit. The game keeps track of how many hits and
kills you have in each combo and the more enemies you can dispose of the
more points you get. You can also switch forms mid-combo to open up new
attacks and make your combo even more stylish After every few levels you
will be allowed to spend your points on new moves and upgrades such as
more health or a better gun or sword. The game becomes easier when you
buy these upgrades, but it also allows you to be even flashier with your
combos so the game definitely gets better the more you play it.
There is also
another way to deal out punishment in Alter Echo. You can use Time
Dilation to stop time and rack up very impressive looking combos. When
you use Time Dilation, the game stops and you are taken to a grid screen
where you have to make precise button presses in order to build chains
of attacks and destroy as many enemies as possible. When your chain
reaches an enemy, you get to watch a nifty cut scene of Nevin performing
some wicked looking attacks.
The gameplay in
Alter Echo could have been better, though, had the camera and targeting
systems not been so poor. The camera is just a little too close for my
liking and it moves very slowly, so it is hard to locate enemies. It is
especially difficult when you are in a room full of enemies and you are
getting shot in the back while other enemies are ahead of you and the
camera simply cant keep up. The targeting system, particularly in the
gun form, is an issue because the auto targeting doesnt always move to
the enemy that is the biggest threat. Youll find yourself shooting at
an enemy all the way across the room when there are four enemies
standing right next to you beating on you. Another annoyance is that the
camera doesnt follow what you are targeting, so you will auto target
enemies behind you or just out of the screen and the camera never moves
on its own, which is annoying.
The level designs
also leave much to be desired. There is only a single path through each
level, which is a major drag. The levels are also very short and consist
of only a handful of rooms each, so it is possible to beat the game in
less than six hours. Another thing that I find odd is that Nevin is
supposedly a great shaper wandering around a planet made entirely out of
plast. It makes you wonder why he doesnt just make a straight line
through the plast to Paavo and get the job done quickly.
Graphically, Alter Echo look pretty good, but it isnt great. The
environments really look like they are made out of rubber or plastic or
whatever plast actually is. Everything is smooth looking and every room
is either purple or brown or pink and the overall look is pretty bland.
It looks like what youd imagine plast to look like, but that doesnt
mean it isnt boring to look at. The character models are pretty
detailed but the faces on the characters look jaggy and, well, ugly.
Special effects for weapons and attacks are nice looking and help the
game to not look so bland.
The sound in Alter Echo is ok, but the voice acting is absolutely
horrible. The sound effects for fighting and the screams of attacking
enemies sound good and the music is fine, but the voice acting will
grate on you from the very first scene on. None of the characters speak
with very much emotion, and the deadpan way Nevin tries to make jokes is
Overall, Alter Echo is a fun game, but it could have been so much more.
The combo system and ability to change forms is great, but the poor
camera and targeting system and linear level design make it yet another
3-D action game that is little more than average. Time Dilation attacks
arent that easy to pull off, and they sort of screw up the flow of the
game, but the resulting attacks are pretty fun to watch. I love changing
forms so easily and the combo system allows for a lot of creativity.
Alter Echo is fun to play, but little annoyances drag it down and the
short length of the game make it a solid rental that you can have fun
with for a couple of days and then forget about.
Eric Qualls (10/12/2003)