It’s not often that a totally different new game appears that just knocks my socks off. Back in the late 80s it was Tetris, a game that totally justified buying a GameBoy. A decade later it was Space Channel Five on the DreamCast. And a couple years ago it was Lumines on the PSP. And today a strange and wonderful little game called Echochrome will be released for the PSP.
Echochrome is a 3D game in a world with rules designed by M.C. Escher, where the laws of physics and perspective twist your brain in different directions, and perception is reality. In this world, if there’s a point of view where two unconnected things look like they line up, then they really do line up. For example, in the drawing below the stairs lead up to a beam that extends to the left, the end of which is obviously not connected to the L-shaped beam at the bottom of the stairs:
BUT! If you shifted your point of view up and to the right a bit, you could look down on the model, where the top and bottom beams look like they’re closer together:
Move just a wee bit more and you can get the two ends to line up exactly, and at that point magic happens in the game: they actually do connect, and one could easily walk from one beam to the other. From that point of view the model would be a continuous loop, where you could climb the stairs and walk back around to the stairs and climb them again, forever and ever.
These games of perspective and point of view are at the heart of may of Escher’s drawings and woodcuts, but to turn them into a playable game is shear genius. The game involves changing your point of view so that beams line up, gaps in beams are hidden behind other beams (if you can’t see a gap it doesn’t exist, and the little guy can walk right over it), and a guy falling thru a hole in a beam lands safely on a beam below it. The levels get complicated as you learn the rules of this world, pretty soon the levels start looking like this:
A demo of the game has been out for a while now, but it only offers a half dozen levels, but rumor has it the released game will have 56 levels. The game isn’t available yet, but then it’s not even 9am yet. Must… be… patient…