"It may not have received much hype, but this game is on the verge of fantastic"
What do Crash Bandicoot and Blinx have in common? They are both on the Xbox and both are average platform games. Whilst the Playstation 2 has been romping all over the genre with titles such as Ratchet and Clank, the Xbox really has been left wanting. Alter Echo just may change this, its unique, its fun and the graphics are superb.
Alter Echo at its core is a platform game, but to ignore it for that reason would be a cruel injustice to the effort the developers put into this title. The story behind the game is that you wake up not knowing where you or your squad members are after a crash landing. The plast (one of the main characters of the game) then introduces itself to you and the special suit which has been crafted to help you defeat Dr Pavvlo. Pavvlo has taken the normal plast and mutated it into a form which can be used to create monsters and like any mad scientist he is trying to take over the world.
This is where you come in, during the long tutorial (twenty minutes plus folks, and you can't skip it) the plast will introduce you to the basic mechanics of the game as well as the three forms your suit can take. The normal humanised form is used for basic platforming and our illustrious hero carries a sword to take down weak enemies. The second form basically turns you into a mech warrior with powerful guns, but be careful as movement is very slow and the final form known as stealth has our character on all fours like a dog. Each form obviously has its advantages and disadvantages, and to conquer the game no doubt players will have to master all three.
After a few missions you will meet up with some squad members who were also lost after the crash. This is the indicator that the game is about to become at least five times harder. Alter Echo may be a platform game but don't expect a walk in the park. Maximising the use of each form becomes crucial and changing a second to late can be the difference between defeating an enemy and being defeated yourself. The enemies by Dr Pavvlo are made out of plast, some can only be taken down by various forms. However after the tutorial Pavvlo removes all your forms and until the plast can restore your suit back to maximum strength, its up to you to progress.
Enemies can be defeated in numerous ways obviously depending on the form. However another way is to control time. At various points during the game, players will come across a point that lets them freeze time. The game will then change to a mini game and players will have to reach a marked point within a time limit. Do so and you will be able to defeat multiple enemies without incurring damage yourself. This mini game is also used to alter the environment. This is known as "syncing". When you sync your plast with the environment, levels can change. For instance in one level I had to build a bridge to progress further, its not complex and it's quite obvious when a modification to the environment is required.
Further into the game all three forms will be restored and players will also come across various pick ups. Traditional pick ups such as health are included but others include turrets to take down multiple enemies easier. Some of these pick ups can only be used by certain forms, so if it looks like its not working for you try another form. The stock standard form features various sword moves. When hits are combined, the game keeps a counter and the more you gain without being hit the more currency you are rewarded. This currency can be used to buy new more powerful moves for the default form. The other forms primarily rely on their own special moves such as the stealth form which can climb up certain sections in each level and become invisible for a short period of time.
Alter Echo can be likened somewhat to a strategy game. Whilst for the most part, players will be progressing through like a natural platformer the game mechanics change completely when enemies are thrown into the equation. I did complain about the length of the tutorial earlier in this review, but the latter part is most definitely required. The controls are fairly easy with the face buttons used for using a forms weapon or jumping, the triggers used to change forms and the two analogue sticks for moving and also controlling the 3D camera. Many games have had problems with 3D Camera movement, but not Alter Echo. It is far and away the best 3D camera I have used in a platform game.
As mentioned in the introduction, the graphics are fantastic. They don't push the Xbox to the limit but the combination of various colours gives the game a bright, fresh look. The character animation and morphing looks superb, and the enemies are also animated well. Sound effects are good, and a bit of humour is thrown into the game to put a grin on the players face. Unfortunately no multiplayer is featured in Alter Echo and neither is custom soundtrack.
Alter Echo surprised me. I wasn't expecting to much out of the game, but this is in my opinion the best platformer on the Xbox thus far. The style of the game is fantastic, the controls are superb and I really enjoyed playing Alter Echo. If you're a platforming fan with an Xbox then you could do a lot worse then Alter Echo. Highly Recommended.
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