Alter Echo
Game Info
Platform(s)
PS2, Xbox
Publisher
THQ
Developer
Outrage Games
Genre
Action
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Fantasy Violence
 
Grade
The Good

• Innovative combat
• Time Dilation minigame

The Bad

• Weak gameplay, graphics
• Low difficulty
• Lacking in story

 
Grade
C-

NextGen action games are available in various flavors. Some are simple, some are very ambitious breakthrough innovatorsÖ and then there are those pretentious types. The ones which are hyped to be the next innovator, but theyíre really nothing more than failures. Alter Echo belongs to that category of action games. Itís lacking in almost every category.

Graphics - The game strives for a very bare and yet organic feel. It succeeds in doing that. But that isnít what we really want. The backgrounds are extremely repetitive and barren. The purple/reddish levels donít do much for the game. Same goes for the enemies and the characters. The characters donít look convincing enough. The game features very edgy animations and renders for both Nevin and the enemies. This means that the battles are not a very pretty sight to look at. Neither are the cutscenes as the facial animations are extremely lacking. Nevinís transformations are relatively good to look at along with the time-dilation cutscenes. Although the game runs at a somewhat steady 60 FPS, that quality canít compensate for the other flaws.

Presentation Ė The game teeters on the edge of surrealism. But it never truly falls into a freefall of an imaginative expanse. It tries hard to put forth believable characters in its FMVs and cutscenes, but disappointingly, these come across very weak, mainly due to a lack of backstory. The menus are easy to work with but the title screen menu is severely lacking, further hurting the game. The OSD is in the same vein of simplicity. Overall, AE is presented with very weak conviction and determination. Nothing really stands out, except its quirkiness, which doesnít really add much to the game other than a superficial sci-fi feel.

Sound/Music Ė Nothing much can be said of the gameís music, because itís so unmemorable that you might not remember even if there was a background score there. The simple techno themes stay in the back most of the time, rarely coming forth to support the action or a cutscene. The voice acting in the game is average. Nothing more and maybe nothing less. Nevin sounds like the stereotypical whiny/reluctant hero. The supporting cast is also stereotypical. You have your basic love interest and a gruff supporting character, the evil villain and his big and stupid and small and smart lackeys. Everyone conforms to their role. Thus, the VA feels extremely artificial and as deep as a rain puddle. The rest of the game sounds like it is expected to. Slashes sound like slashes, guns firing sound like we expect them to and an explosion sounds like a boom. The enemies too sound like every other action game. This is not good. As a game which goes for a very different look and feel AE should have aimed for a much more surreal feel.

Story Ė AE features a slightly standardized action game story with pretentious sci-fi overtones. As it stands, the human race has discovered a pseudo-living matter called Protoplast. This matter can be used for various purposes and a select few, called Shapers, are able to work with it. One of the best Shapers, Paavo, decides to take Protoplast to the next level and creates a highly evolved and sentient form of Protoplast, Echoplast, only to become deranged and aim for world.. no, universal domination using his Echoplast. Of course, Paavo has been missing for a while and itís up to Nevin and his team to find Paavo, but theyíre shot down and Nevin is separated from his team. How surprising. Nevin is then contacted by Echo, who wishes to become free from his evil master and save the Universe, which is not possible without Nevinís help. Nevin is granted special powers thanks to Echo and now he must stop Paavo. Yawn. Yes, the story does have a few obligatory twists near the end.

Gameplay Ė Outrage had repeatedly heralded its gameís gameplay as very innovative and the way they put it forth in trailers and interviews it seemed that maybe this game would be something radically new. It is new. Thatís true, but it isnít pushed to itís true potential. The game feels like a demo of the pre-alpha version of the real game. Everything that Outrage advertised is in the game, only itís not executed correctly.

AEís overly advertised USP was that Nevin could change form with the simple press of a button. This would allow for very fun and strategic battles as the three forms are radically different an allow for different approaches to the game. That doesnít work out really well due to lack of polish. The 3 forms can be classified as Blade, Tank and Stealth. All of them handle uniquely with unique moves and specials. The game fools you into believing that you can perform inter-form combos quite easily, but you canít. The game is very rigid. It has itís set number of transformation moves and combos, killing some of the novelty of transformation. Speaking of moves, you start out with a small set of moves and linkable combos, and a single form. But quickly you are given access to all three forms and buyable moves and armor and weapon upgrades, which are bought by expending experience orbs. Most of these moves are pretty useless and youíll find yourself going for weapon and armor upgrades.

Through most of the game youíll find yourself mowing through stupid groups of weak enemies to solve easy puzzles and move from point A to B. The puzzles mostly require either the Stealth form or the Snake-like minigame puzzles which help you to use Echoís powers to alter and purify levels among other things. The game also features a varied group of boss battles which rarely require much strategy. Most end of level battles see you merely facing off against a group of enemies. One of AEís most novel features is the time-dilation move, which features the same Snakelike minigame where you must move your player in a grid using the face-buttons on the controller with rhythm to strike enemies in dilated time and if you are successful you will be awarded with a slightly gratifying cutscene of Nevin attacking the enemies. Granted itís nothing more than a glorified super-bomb, but itís till fun to use. But sadly it is extremely underused in the game, primarily due to low difficulty and weak level/boss design. Despite all itís flaws, AE controls surprisingly well. Itís a breeze to pull of transformations and combos in the most chaotic of battles and the time dilation parts are easy to work with due to spot on button press recognition.

Difficulty Ė AE is a very easy game. Extremely easy. You can breeze through it with little or no trouble. The boss battles are easy and the puzzles are too simple. With relative ease you can string long combos to gain exp orbs and use those to upgrade Nevin. Itís this ease that also is a big negative for the game. Had the game been more difficult, it would have forced the gamer to find more depth in the gameplay.

Replay Value Ė Replay value? What replay value? There is absolutely no reason for you to play this game second time. The game offers you absolutely nothing. Nothing at all.

Overall Ė In the end AE is nothing more than an ambitious project that lost itís way. Itís as if the guys at Outrage struck upon innovative gameplay ideas but they just couldnít mould a good game around them. The simple truth is that AE is a very weak game. But the really bitter truth is that despite my continuous rants this game can be had fun with. If you really try and get yourself into the game you will be rewarded with a few seemingly good hours. Iím definitely not recommending a purchase here, not even a rent. But if you want to check AE out, you will have to make a conscious effort to have fun with it. AE does hint at a sequel and hopefully it will be more than a demo of the beta version of the true game.

- - Rise of the Phoenix

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