What happens when you combine a unique action title, a b-movie storyline, and lots of pink and purple? Alter Echo, apparently, the newest genre-bending action game from THQ and Outrage Games.
Alter Echo can be best described as strange at first glance, due to its attempt to create a surreal, living world. It accomplishes this, and for the first hour or so, Alter Echo doesn't look too bad. However, as you advance in the game, very little changes and it starts looking more and more bland. Take a look at a screenshot and ask yourself if you can stand looking at something awfully similar for several hours'I somehow managed.
The environments rely too heavily on a distinct color scheme for the entire game'just using different colors and changing things up occasionally might have helped to offset the monotony. The audio doesn't fare much better either. The main character's voice borders on irritating and his horrible quips make it much, much worse.
Alter Echo is your standard action title with a slight twist. You can instantly morph between three different forms: melee, gun, and stealth mode. Each form has its own strengths and weaknesses, and many of the puzzles are centered on their special abilities. Since switching between the three forms is instantaneous, juggling combos between the three forms is possible, and is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the game.
You're rewarded for how well your combos are strung together, which somewhat keeps button mashing to a minimum, although you can still get by knowing only a few key combos. Additionally, there's a good deal of variation between enemies that makes switching forms even more vital since some enemies can only be taken out in certain forms. And oddly enough, there's even a rhythm mini-game that adds a bit of variety to the combo-stringing madness.
While the combat is fun and well thought out, Alter Echo's biggest problem is that repetition sets in far too early. Linear level design, overly simplistic puzzles, and dull environments all share an equal role in the blame. About halfway through, it really feels like a chore to keep playing. And to add insult to injury, Alter Echo is far too short, easily beaten in six to seven hours with little incentive to play through again.
Potential is one of those few words that might sound nice when used to describe something. But really, when broken down, potential means that one day you could possibly be great, but for now, you're mediocre. I can't help but apply the word 'potential'? to Alter Echo. Indeed, Alter Echo brings some interesting gameplay elements to the table, but the execution falls short and it ends up being simply average, along with a thousand other no-name action titles. To its credit, Alter Echo is fun enough to be a worthwhile rental or bargain bin find, but not much beyond that.
Download Alter Echo
Take one part traditional game design, add two parts flashy graphics, and a dash of gameplay mechanics that haven't been used often before, and occasionally you get an enjoyable game. Such is the case of Alter Echo, which for the most part, masquerades as a normal, somewhat dull action title, but offers a few elements that I can only describe as 'neat.'
Once you begin your quest to liberate the EchoPlast, a sentient, planet-wide life form that is at the heart of the Alter Echo story, you'll get access to three unique suits, each of which you can morph into with a single press of the button. Switching between Gun, Sword, and Stealth forms give you a variety of movement, attack, and defense options. My favorite part of the game is the fact that you can upgrade your abilities, getting extra armor, new combos, and morphing combos.
However, the most interesting part of the gameplay comes from the fact that you can use a time dilation feature that lets you freeze time, and by using a small mini-game like interface, unleash a multiple hit combo on any of your opponents. It adds a really cool element to the combat that always tends to refresh me after pulling it off. Given how boring combat in action games can get, that's a good thing.
All in all, Alter Echo is entertaining as a traditional game that mixes it up a little, giving you some entertaining gameplay options. I don't see the addition of time dilation as being too gimmicky, so I'd say that it is a worthwhile addition. However, for fifty bucks, I'm not sure I'd recommend this one. I'll advocate a rental, but that's all.