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Throwback Thursday-Echo: Secrets of the Lost Cavern Review

Throwback Thursday-Echo: Secrets of the Lost Cavern Review

Throwback Thursday-Echo: Secrets of the Lost Cavern Review

A charming title that is far from flawless but will provide 10-15 hours of gaming that will be unique and enjoyable from the beautiful graphics to the novel puzzles to the striking soundscapes.


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Genre: Adventure
Release Date: Summer 2005

Note: This review was originally published September 4, 2005 

Echo is not going to set the world on fire. There are no fancy 3D graphics featuring pixel shaders. There are no Hollywood leads in the roles of the characters in the game. The story, though unusually set in the Paleolithic, is not spectacularly unexpected in the direction it takes.

BUT, this is a game that makes sense, has puzzles and events that seem suited to the setting, and is enjoyable almost at every turn. Anyone who has ever played a Cryo title will know that there are two kinds of edutainment titles-those that work and those that seem nonsensical and make the player wonder whether there is an unbridgeable cultural difference between the French game designers and the English speaking audience. Readers will be thrilled to know that Kheops Studio has hit the mark with Echo.

As Arok, a young caveman in search of spiritual enlightenment, the player must overcome hurdles that would likely have played a part in the actual Paleolithic people. The developers have researched the paintings from the French Lascaux caves to create a title where the story does not seem to have been tacked on, a symptom of many poor adventures theses days. Puzzles are extremely well integrated and appropriate to the locales where the player travels. The puzzles make sense and are just challenging enough to hold interest and motivate the player. I really enjoyed the surreal aspects of the puzzle solving. In many instance, Arok interacts with the rock carvings to cause a real life event to happen. Strange as it sounds, it actually works. I don’t recall a single game where puzzles were used in the story this way, at least with any degree of success. It must be noted, however, that the final two puzzles are a disappointment, deviating from the format used throughout the game-these puzzles don’t quite gel and seem forced. Despite this, the puzzles overall are quite original and very satisfying. The game is solid but could not be described as exciting.

Graphics are appropriately detailed and are jaw dropping at times. There are animated backgrounds, with butterflies and deer moving in the distance. There are two options for the graphics-a software and a hardware option, but I didn’t really notice a lot of difference between them. The graphics are similar to those in Return to Mysterious Island. I was particularly impressed by some of the water effects at times. Everything is very well-detailed and there is a lot of eye candy beyond what is necessary to see to complete the game. But, having said that, everything looks like it belongs in this Paleolithic world-there are no objects, characters, or animals that seem futuristic or out of place.

Sound is delightful throughout. From the ambient music to the crackling of the fire to the voice acting, this is exceedingly well done. It is all very high quality. What struck me as odd, however, was that both the dialog and music was quite modern. The characters spoke in sentence structure about quite philosophical topics and there was a choir in the background music often! I’m no history expert, but this doesn’t quite gel with the Paleolithic setting in my mind. Having said that, the music was beautiful and moving. The game was created in French and translated, resulting in some subtly odd sentences such as “he is concentrated” when a character was deep in thought about something: “concentrating”. One odd thing about sound was that the game purported to support Windows 98SE but under that system there was no sound in the cutscenes. No matter what I did, I couldn’t figure out how to get sound. I installed codec packs without success. Support from The Adventure Company was useless, with the typical “update your drivers” and “lower acceleration” suggestions. Even with numerous emails, I only received two replies, one to tell me they’d received my email and one to send the generic responses. Under Windows XP, the sound was perfect.

The game screens are also very user friendly, following the traditional Cryo screen layout. A nice touch is that when a new item has been added to inventory, a little icon flashes on the screen accompanied by a chime. Items in inventory are labeled, well described, and there is little chance of a player wondering what any item is. The interface is easy to use throughout. Words are clear and easy to read. A newbie would be able to play Echo without difficulty. One small annoyance is the number of screens the player must traverse to quit. The player must quit twice to quit the game, and then click again to confirm the choice. Even though it only takes a few seconds, waiting for the menus to pop up to quit the game seemed to drag on forever.

I had some other strange technicalities playing the game. The game took up to thirty seconds to get started. I’m not sure what was going on during this time, but I don’t recall a single title other than Joseph’s Story that took so long to get started. Joseph’s Story’s slow times were related to the GameStudio A5 game engine but, with a larger game budget, I doubt ti is the culprit here. There were also times where the game disk just wouldn’t read in the DVD-drive I was using. It would ask me to insert the disk when it was already in the drive. No degree of re-inserting ever made any difference, and the only solution was to restart the computer. The good news is that it didn’t need to be started more than once. Not really sure what the cause of this was although I wondered if it related to a difference in the way the disk data had been burned. It could also relate to the firmware of my DVD-drive though this has never happened with any other game.

There is a wealth of historical information that can be accessed from the game menus. Remember this if you are a fan of the edutainment style of adventure games because there is precious little educational material in the game. This is not a grandchild of the Cryo edutainment titles such as Versailles, Aztec, or Egypt but don’t let this put you off. Don’t have any misconceptions that you are going to learn all about Paleolithic people and you will enjoy your ride.

I recommend that anyone looking for a solid adventure get out and purchase Echo. It is a charming title that is far from flawless but will provide 10-15 hours of gaming that will be unique and enjoyable from the beautiful graphics to the novel puzzles to the striking soundscapes. I’m glad I played the game and look forward to more titles from Kheops. This game deserves a B+.

Final Grade: B+

System Requirements:

Windows® 98/ME/2000/XP
Pentium® III 800 MHz
64 MB DirectX® Compatible 3D Graphics Card
DirectX® 7 Compatible Sound Card
CD-ROM Drive: 16x
Keyboard, Mouse, Speakers

Alexander Tait

Alexander Tait

Alexander Tait was born in Kobe, Japan, the son of Australian diplomats and has a degree in Speech Pathology. He works at an outpatient hospital in Newcastle, two hours north of Sydney, where he helps people with strokes and other neurological conditions recover their communication and swallowing.Alex lives with his wife, Juanita, sons Dakota Sioux and Kiowa, and dogs, Suleiman and India. He and his wife became involved with adventure gaming in 1998, with Juanita primarily playing the "quality" games. Alex enjoys seeking out and writing walkthroughs for the more obscure adventure games. He has, to date, infected his mother-in-law, mother, sister, and brother-in-law with the adventure game virus. AND HE'LL GET YOU TOO!

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