I played Echoed World for two reasons, maybe three. One, I thought, based on its few screenshots, that it looked real pretty, like Monster Tale at a higher resolution or a piece of sci-fi concept art brought to life. I haven’t played it, but I can see a comparison to Ori and the Blind Forest as well due to its hand-painted graphics. Two, it’s available as a free download on Steam. And the maybe three part…well, it kind of reminded me of the character-driven platformers of yesteryear, like Jak and Daxter, Metroid, and, uh, Rocket Knight Adventures, which I do have a liking to. You know, you control a unique-looking hero and traverse an environment for some big and bombastic reason. Either way, that’s what I went in with, and the game–really, a demo, a practice sliver–didn’t exactly live up to expectations, but I think there’s promise here.
Echoed World was created as a student project, with the team putting it out for free in hopes of receiving feedback from players. You know, like me. Well, here I am, doing my civic duty. It sounds like most of Team DOTS had no previous experience with game development, churning out Echoed World over a few months of tutored game development classes. In that regards, it is impressive; in terms of something you play, it is less so, but I am no developer myself, only a player that plays.
The best thing Echoed World has going for itself is its world and opening cutscene. See, the creator of this place made a decision to split his almighty power up into seven Architects because of reasons. By doing this, he became nothing more than just an observer, a mundane human being. These Architects reshaped the world so that it brimmed with beauty and energy; however, the Architect Tyr was obsessed with perfection and struggled to make life as good as everyone else, deciding to steal the beauty from other planets. You play as the Architect known as Algiz, who can no longer create brand new life, but is still able to manipulate life that’s already been created. This process requires many sacrifices as he makes his way across a slowly dying world.
In total, Echoed World took me about 20 minutes to see to completion, but that could have probably been more like 15 minutes since I ended up having to reload a section due to a physics error, more on that in a moment. It’s a puzzle-based platformer where mechanics and story are bound together. You move generally left to right and make your way to the end of the level. Usually, there are some obstacles in the way, such as a large gap you can’t job; however, Algiz can borrow life from something nearby and put it into the dead tree stump by the gap to make it grow and create a bridge. There are also doors that need a specific amount of life energy to open, requiring you to take back life you’ve already used and store it inside until you get there. Lastly, on two occasions, a monster will attack you, and your only way to combat it is by manipulating the environment so that it falls into spikes and dies. None of this is challenging, and the monster sections are a little underwhelming, but I could see these ideas being expanded into more complex puzzles, especially if you had to juggle both monsters and stealing/dropping life into the world simultaneously.
That said, technically, performance-wise, Echoed World is not great. Jumping is vital to a platformer, obviously, and the jumping here is beyond bouncy and unresponsive. I never felt fully in control of Algiz and where he was landing. At one point, he got stuck on the edge of a platform, and the game didn’t know what to do, so I was stuck, body half inside a rock, unable to do anything but reload the whole section. Also, there are collectibles to find, swirling balls of light, six in total, but after I got stuck and had to reload, the game seemed to forget that I had already found four by that point and started me back at zero, despite picking up what I believed to be the fifth collectible. It was strange. Lastly, Algiz is not affected by any of the game’s lighting, which looks odd when inside a dark cave and the character model is cartoony bright and vibrant, like a new layer in Photoshop at 100% on top of another more subdued layer.
Anyways, that was a lot of words for a game that honestly is just testing the developmental waters. I hope my criticism is well-received because, again, I think there’s something here. Echoed World just needs more time and polish.