Lost Echo: Engaging Story But Needs More Interaction

When I first played Lost Echo ($2.99) I got to the trigger event that causes everything else to unfold and while the game seemed like it had a lot of potential it didn’t really hook me. Now that I’ve revisited the game several months later I’ve realized that it’s actually a really interesting interactive story. Much like a chapter of the Twilight Zone mythos, this sci-fi romp manages to provide more adult-oriented themes à la Cognition: Episode 1 or Yesterday. I think it has a lot to offer adventure game fans, though it might not be as “hands on” as one might like.

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You play the part of Greg, and an impromptu meeting with your girlfriend Chloe quickly turns into an investigation of her disappearance.  You turn to your best friend Tom, who doesn’t seem to actually remember this girl or your relationship. From there it gets weird as you travel the city meeting interesting characters and ultimately, well… I’m not going to spoil it for you. Suffice it to say there are a few interesting surprises thrown into the plot, though it does get a bit convoluted at times. Still the tale is compelling throughout, and if you enjoy a good sci-fi story you won’t get bored.

The problem lies in the fact that the balance in game play is out of whack. It feels like the majority of the game is spent travelling from place to place talking to people; and while I’m a big proponent of NPC dialogs in an adventure game, it felt like too much emphasis was placed on this aspect. There were a couple of spots that had some great object-based puzzle solving, but there should have been more.  Also, I have mixed feelings about the mini-games. On the plus side, they were definitely not the typical fare you encounter in most adventure games these days. On the other hand, they tended to be more frustrating than entertaining; and while they were pretty much beatable without skipping them or resorting to a walk-through, they often didn’t seem worth the effort. Speaking of walk-throughs, there were a couple of situations where it almost seemed necessary to move on (thankfully the developer has one on their site).

Navigation was interesting. Most things required a single tap to operate or interact with, but due to the 3D world it was sometimes hard to pinpoint where you needed to tap. I did like the fact that tapping with two fingers would display a hotspot over any area that could be interacted with, but just because you saw the hotspot didn’t mean you necessarily had access to that item until you moved in such a way that the camera would automatically adjust to give you a better vantage point of the object in question. Due to 2D interaction in a 3D world a couple of the mini-games were rough as well, particularly the one where you had to disassemble a gun. The game offers 11 achievements, but unless you want to earn them all or try out some dialog options you didn’t get to the first time, there’s really no replay value here.

The visuals were pretty good with some nicely detailed backgrounds and good looking character models. All the characters did seem to have a similarly lanky build, however. The sound effects were decent, though sadly there were no voiceovers for the characters. The music was well written and I liked how it was dispersed throughout the game much like a movie soundtrack to where it was effective but not omni-present.

I’m not quite sure how to recommend this game. I personally enjoyed it and was glad I saw it through to the end, but despite being an adventure game it might have too much story for those that prefer puzzle-driven games. It almost feels more like an interactive storybook for adults. Sure you’re driving the action and there are times where you do things besides read and press “next,” but the focus is definitely on the story. Just keep that in mind before you dive in and you should find it worth your while.

Overall Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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<p>Eric Pankoke has been a gamer for more than 20 years. He began with arcade games, moving to consoles and eventually handhelds and Pocket PCs. Now he spends most of his time on one of his iOS devices. Eric has written more than 700 gaming reviews, which have appeared on a number of gaming websites as well as several issues of both Smartphone & Pocket PC and iPhone Life magazines. He regularly contributes to <a href="http://www.iphonelife.com/blog">iphonelife.com</a> and TouchMyApps. Ultimately he hopes to eventually develop games himself for whatever the hot mobile device is when he finally gets moving.</p>