Throwback Thursday - Echo Night: Beyond Review
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Throwback Thursday - Echo Night: Beyond Review
An okay game, marred mainly by its repetitiveness. It’s not a bad experience (well, except for that platforms part), but it won’t hold your attention for long.
Posted: 12/08/16 | Category: Review | Developer: From Software | Publisher: Agetec | Platform: Playstation 2

Note: This review was originally published July 27, 2004

Genre: Adventure
Release Date: July 27, 2004

Console adventure games are a rare breed. Even rarer are console-only adventure games. Count Echo Night: Beyond as the newest member of this elite group. After viewing the trailer (which for some reason presented ENB as a survival/horror game) a few months ago I was very excited to play the final product. So is ENB reason enough for an adventurer to rush out and purchase a PS2? Well, I don’t believe it is a system seller… but let’s jump ahead to the future.

It’s the year 2044 and the Earth’s moon is a now a tourist attraction and work facility. Richard Osmond and fiancée Claudia Selfer are taking a space trip to the moon, when something goes horribly wrong and their space shuttle crashes into a lunar mining facility. Richard survives the crash, but after he comes to, realizes that Claudia is nowhere to be found. Did she survive? And if so, where could she be? But that’s not the only thing Richard will have to worry about. A weird red stone was recently discovered by the miners and, after that, things started to go really bad in the facility. A thick fog of unknown origin started to spread, and people started disappearing one after the other. Now all that is left is the spirits of those people, who are looking for a way to rest their souls. The problem is, the fog is making those spirits very hostile – deadly hostile!

You play as Richard, on a quest to discover the fate of his beloved fiancée, carrying her picture and a promise ring in his pockets. As he searches for Claudia, Richard will encounter the ghosts of the people that died in the mining facility. These ghosts will be willing to help Richard, unless they are in an area covered in that mysterious fog – in which case they will attack. When a ghost attacks, Richard’s heart will start beating faster and faster, until it reaches a point that it can’t take it anymore and stops – and of course Richard dies. The only way to survive is running away from the hostile ghost, until a way to clear the fog can be found. This comes in the form of ventilation systems, which Richard has to activate in order to clean up the atmosphere and calm down the ghosts. After that, ghosts become friendly and willing to help Richard, but want something in return in order for their souls to rest.

That, in a nutshell, is what happens throughout the whole game. You will be walking around the facility, encountering hostile ghosts, running away from them, trying to find and activate the ventilation systems, then talking to them, finding what they need to set their souls free, and then continuing further, where you’ll meet more hostile ghosts, running away … etc, etc. Although this is initially very interesting and challenging, it eventually becomes repetitive. In between all that, you will find several monitor rooms, where you can watch what’s going on from the cameras that are set all over the place. Those cameras will show you the places where the ghosts are so that you’ll know what to expect. Also, while using the cameras, you’ll notice some green spots on certain places. Zooming on those spots you’ll see recordings of events that took place while the people in the facility were still alive. This will provide you with more insight into what has happened there. Unfortunately the cameras move really slow, and the need to scan the areas in their whole in order not to miss parts of the story, combined with the number of cameras that are available, make this another very repetitive task to be added to the cycle of constantly repeating events.

The game is played in 1st person, viewing the world through Richard’s space helmet, which has a flashlight attached to it. This flashlight is extremely essential, since there are many dark places to explore. It is not everlasting and is powered by batteries that will eventually run out. There are battery replacements to be found around the facility, but they are not enough if you want to keep the light on the whole time. So, the only solution to that is turning the light on and off depending on where you are – a process that gets a little annoying after you have done it a few million times. And you must never run out of batteries, otherwise you will not be able to finish the game. Another very essential item is the syringes, which can be used to lower your heart rate. Although running away from a ghost and then standing still will work just fine, there is at least one section in the game where a ghost will keep on chasing you enough not to be able to run away in time. The only way to keep your heart rate down will be a syringe, so make sure you’ll always carry some with you and never use them frivolously.

In order to control Richard around the facility both the analog sticks are used; one to move forward/backward and turn around, and the other to look around. Several items will be lying on the floor, and will be spotted only when looking down. Other items will be very well hidden, so looking everywhere is very important. You can also toggle between walking and running, but running will increase your heart rate – though not to lethal levels.

The puzzles mainly consist of finding what the ghosts need so that they can free their souls, and finding your way to areas that are not initially accessible. The hardest part of the puzzles is actually locating the items needed – yes, in some cases you’ll come across the console equivalent of pixel hunting! Some ghosts must be freed in order to progress, but there are other ghosts that are optional to free. You will get different endings according to whether you’ve freed all the ghosts or not. The “real” ending (i.e. having freed all the ghosts) is very unexpected and it left me with a very positive and rewarding feeling that I had been compensated for all the trouble I went through!

At this point I need to mention a certain “puzzle” that was extremely frustrating and would probably have made me quit playing the game if I didn’t have to write this review. At some point in the game you’ll be walking on the surface of the moon and your pace is very slow and you are not able to run, but you can make long jumps. You can also fall into big gaps and die. All that would have been fine, since the gaps are very easy to jump over. The problem is that you are also required to jump on moving platforms and failure to do it properly will result in your death. And to add insult to injury, the game follows the usual, ridiculous and totally unexplained console mentality where you can only save at certain places –so you must start the platform jump over and over and over again, since there’s no way to save after each successful jump. This is totally unacceptable.

On the upside, ENB’s atmosphere is amazing. The loneliness; the darkness; the coldness; the, most of the time, total silence, with only your footsteps and your breathing sounding in your ears; the fear for your life when a hostile ghost appears and starts chasing you, accompanied by intensely forboding sounds and your heart beating faster and faster (while the joypad vibrates harder and harder!). The graphics are mainly dark and cold but nicely made – when they’re not entirely covered in fog! There is also a great visual effect of Richard’s vision deteriorating to black as his heart rate rises! Oh, and there is a ghost kid who leaves handprints on your helmet while laughing! All that builds up to a beautifully horrifying experience. Too bad the game mechanics don’t live up to its excellent presentation.

About the general sound of the game, there’s not much to say. Sounds are mainly limited to Richard’s breathing and footsteps and the intense sounds when encountering a hostile ghost. Background sounds of flickering lights, escalators, ticking watches etc can be heard here and there, and that’s about it. The dialogs are actually monologs! You will never hear Richard speak. The ghosts are the only ones that do the talking, several of them having heavy Russian accents – since there were many Russian workers in the facility.

Overall, Echo Night: Beyond is an okay game, marred mainly by its repetitiveness. It’s not a bad experience (well, except for that platforms part), but it won’t hold your attention for long. I would recommend the game to someone who wants to play an adventure game and only has access to a PS2, but not as a representative game of the genre. It might have some appeal to space horror adventure fans - especially as this is an underrepresented theme - if they can disregard the repetitive gameplay. But the rest of the adventure gamers have a good variety of adventures to choose from rather than take the risk. Make this a rental rather than a purchase and you won’t be disappointed.

Final Grade: C+
Specials from Digital Download
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