I’m purchasing an Xbox Live Indie Game (XBLIG) every day, seeking out the quality titles that got lost in the shuffle and are not well represented in the top 50 lists on the Xbox Dashboard. Today is day #184, and today’s game is “Echoes+”.
Echoes+ was recommended by Mass Deduction reader “Kiyobi”, and I’m thankful for it. I wasn’t aware of the game previously, and with nearly 2000 titles on the indie games channel I’m always thankful for reader suggestions. With more modes than most two-stick shooters, the game was well worth the meagre 80 points it cost me to purchase it.
First, from the developer (Binary Zoo):
“Destroy the Universe in a rainbow of sugar rush colours, viewed through psychedelic sunglasses in a cheap 80′s nightclub. TRANSLATION: A fun, chaotic twin-stick shoot-em-up with 6 game modes, 4 difficulty settings, 24 high score tables, 100 trials, multiple power-ups and weapons. And it’s not terrible (You might even like it!)”
Echoes+ replaces the enemies most twin-stick shooters have with the asteroids from the classic game of the same name. Then as you progress through the game it adds in more modern enemies as well. This game is as much avoid-’em-up as shoot-’em up, because the volume of enemies thrown at you (particularly at the higher levels) would simply overwhelm you otherwise. But that alone doesn’t differentiate the game from all the two-stick shmups out there, so what does?
Firstly, Echoes+ does not have simple one-shot kills on your player (for the most part). You have a health bar, and you can grab health power-ups to replenish it. A small few dual-stick shooters have that, though not many, so what else does Echoes+ do? Well, it also has the ability to activate a shield (though a very temporary one); most twin-stick shooters, if they have a shield at all, it’s just when you first warp into the playfield with a new life. Having the ability to temporarily activate a shield really changes the game because it lets the game throw more enemies at you than you could possibly survive in a game like Geometry Wars, “Beat Hazard”, “radiangames Joy Joy”, or “Groov”.
Perhaps the most unusual feature is the ability to set your ship’s speed in the game’s options, similar to how you might adjust stick sensitivity, rumble strength, or volume. This allows a less experienced player to have a slower, easier to control ship; experienced players can whip around the screen at speeds most players couldn’t handle. This is a really progressive option, in my opinion, and one I don’t recall seeing before (and even if it has been done before, it’s definitely not common).
It does some thing that are not unique, but are good choices for the game: weapons upgrades, pick-ups, and multiplier increases that are based on taking risks by taking your eye off the enemies long enough to pick up power-ups instead of them being automatic as your score or kill count increases. Actually, as I write that, I realise some of those things aren’t that common in this genre after all.
And then there are the game modes, six in all, which offer a great deal of variety:
- “Echoes” has you going through a series of levels, with a new type of enemy being added each time, and (unless I’m imagining it) that the game introduces them in a different order each time you play
- “Time Attack” has you seeing how high a score you can log in three minutes, with the limit being time rather than lives
- “Survivor” is the opposite of Time Attack, with lives being the limiting factor as you strive to survive as long as you can, and here the one-shot-kill is implemented to make it more challenging.
- “Asteroid Belt” gives you maxed out weapons, and then has a collection of orange enemies chase you all over the screen, gradually getting faster over time.
- “Meteor Storm” is the final mode, with blue asteroids traveling in a row with a yellow one hidden in each swarm that holds a score multiplier power-up.
- “Classic” mode is, well, Asteroids by another name, complete with green faux-vector graphics (this mode also has one-hit-kills)
Presentation is very strong with attractive explosions, super smooth animation, and a frame rate that never stutters. Echoes+ was originally 240 Microsoft Points, and that was a fair price for it. Online leaderboards are sorely missing, but forgivable given the strength of the overall package. These days it’s dropped to 80 MSP, and it’s a no brainer for anyone with a dual-stick shooter itch to scratch.
Click here to download “Echoes+”, and then please come back after playing to rate the game.
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