Last week, we reviewed the puzzle app Lyne, and not only enjoyed it very much, but also commented that we could have been on the cusp of another three-week run of excellent new puzzle apps. The run started the week before with Matchagon, and echoed a similar streak which ended in October 2013. By happy coincidence (it wasn’t planned this way, honest), we’re looking at another puzzle app, called Echo, today. Will this be another winner, or has the streak been broken?
To give it its full title, the game in question is Echo: A Music Game, which should tell you the genre in which it’s based. However, this isn’t a rhythm game like Tap Tap Revenge or Cytus, but a puzzle game that breaks a tune down in to component parts, which must be reassembled by the player.
The main screen is split into two parts. The play area is like a pin board, with sections separated off from the rest, into which you place the notes presented to you at the bottom of the screen. At the top of the display is an example of the music you must replicate. It sort of looks like that big, bright display used at the end of Close Encounters. Notes come in different colours, and operate at all ends of the spectrum, from high treble sounds, to low, bassy ones.
You’re given an example of the tune you must create, and proceed to drag notes into one of the separated areas. Here, they whiz back and forth, sounding their note when they hit a wall. Once they’re all in place and in the right order, the music plays correctly. Elements of the board can change the notes. For example, the smaller the length of travel, the faster the timing. A double tap lets you change the direction of travel, meaning notes can be played vertically or horizontally.
The more complex the piece you must play, the more notes you must juggle. Get the timing wrong, and you must try again. Have two notes collide, and it’s not going to work either. Each level is one complete piece of music, and once you pass it, you get the chance to remix the sound yourself.
Echo starts off well. The drag and drop method of control is accurate, and the double tap menu makes sense. Dragging notes from one section to another is a little haphazard, mainly due to the tip of your finger obscuring the note itself. You’re introduced to the different game mechanics slowly, so they’re relatively easy to master, but some levels still require thought, usually resulting in an “ah!” moment when it clicks into place. This is a good thing, and makes the game fun.
Mid way through the third stage, and things start to get tough. One particular level was proving very difficult, despite repeated tries to get it right. At this point, you may be expecting to hear about a help mode, or the appearance of a hint or two. No, what Echo does is completely unexpected. It locks you out of the level entirely for five minutes. A message appears saying the amount of retries has been exceeded, and that it would be best to take a break. Once the timer reaches zero, you can continue playing that level.
Sorry, what? This isn’t a freemium app, it cost £0.69, and if we want to play it until A: all our hair has been pulled out, or B: we throw our phone out the window in frustration, that’s our right! It’s utterly astonishing the developer thought this was a good idea. Stopping the player from solving the puzzle invites them to close the app and never return. We’ll go one step further and say don’t bother buying it in the first place.
Up until this point, Echo was quite enjoyable, but fairly easy. At the first whiff of it getting difficult, the app suggested we don’t play it anymore. We didn’t really try to master the remix mode. Partly because our musical ability is lacking, but mostly because the game had put us off using it at all. If the addition of the timer is an attempt to put pressure on the player, then it failed. Its inclusion means we can’t recommend Echo: A Music Game at all, which therefore brings our winning puzzle game streak to a crashing stop.