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Remarkable Reflections- Halfbrick Echoes Reviewed

Halfbrick Echoes for the Xbox 360. Developer: Halfbrick Studios Publisher: Halfbrick Studios

Nearly thirty years ago, two dimensional mazes were the predominant setting for videogames. While arcade players were sweeping the labyrinthine passages of Pac-Man and its myriad of knock-offs, Atari 2600 owners were racing through the halls of Maze Craze and Dodge ‘Em. While the genre lingered through the 1980’s giving birth to classics such a Gauntlet, Rally X, and Berzerk, today the maze game is a nearly forgotten relic. Even 2007’s celebrated Pac-Man Championship Edition did little to reinvigorate corridor crawling.

After reimagining arcade classic Lunar Lander into the compelling but demanding puzzler, Blast Off, the wizards at Halfbrick have returned with yet another creative extension based on a lapsed genre. Halfbrick Echoes is a wonderfully polished and enthralling effort from the Australian-based development house. It’s a shame that the game is explicably hidden within the bowels of the NXE interface. Arguably, the greatest obstacle to the game’s success is its accessibility; many 360 owners are still unfamiliar with the burgeoning Community Games area.

The main goal of Echoes is charmingly straightforward: collect the specified number of crystals in each of the game’s 32 levels. Whereas most titles winthin the genre present a team of A.I. controlled adversaries, Halfbrick’s inspired concept generates foes that trace the players own footsteps. Using the left thumbstick, player’s guide an avatar around the screen, leaving a trail of footprints in their wake. Levels quickly become chaotic, with numerous transparent antagonists on the gamer’s heels, and constricted areas of movement. Fortunately, the player is given a visual indicator of each echo’s predetermined path, allowing gameplay to be manageable, yet still entertainingly hectic.

Once players tire of the main game, there are three intriguing variations that offer supplemental diversion. Jackpot requires players to quickly string crystal-grabbing combos in a sixty second time limit. Clockwork presents an ever-crowded environment where the player can control the accruing echo population with the left and right triggers. Our favorite mode is Survival, which exhibits an experience that evokes Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2’s pacifism mode. Player must eliminate echoes by luring them near explosions, often resulting in satisfying chains that cross the playfield.

Halfbrick Echoes‘ blemishes are minimal, and nearly forgivable, considering how enjoyable the game is. Deaths are brutally abrupt; I yearned for a slow motion replay of my two-pixel miscalculations, so I could learn from my blunders. The game’s trial period allows for only a single play-through of a handful of levels, which feels rather stingy, in comparison to Blast’s ample demo.  Some players may be puzzled by the game’s avatar- a sailor hat, reminiscent to the one worn by children’s book protagonist, Madeline.

Overall, Halfbrick’s Echoes is a shining example of an Xbox Live Community title. For four dollars, the game is bursting with creativity and value- even the credits offer a playable activity. With a plethora of content, the title puts many showcased 400 and 800 point Microsoft offerings to shame. We eagerly await future output from the imagine minds at Halfbrick, and wouldn’t be surprised if the developers reach Pixeljunk-like levels of critical success.

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert 'DesertEagle' Allen is Tech-Gaming's resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.

59 comments

  1. Never heard of it!

  2. Sounds good, but why would the demo be so cheap. Still I’m going to download and check it out.

  3. great review. I agree these chaps are on their way to pixeljunk fame and fortune.

    Remember how PixelJunk Racer was looked over?

  4. Where is this game? I just looked on the XBLA releases and cant seem to find it. Is it a US or EU release?

  5. Reminds me of Pac-Man, except you cant backtrack otherwise your royally screwed.

  6. Handdrawn graphics are good for this game, but I’m getting a bit tired of the look.

  7. How could this be a maze game if it takes place on a horseshow? Not very maze-y at all?

  8. Desert, have you seen this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u822RGsl_E4

    I also sent it to your email.

  9. Look in the community game section of the menu system. You’ll find it there.

  10. I will try this once I get home.

  11. Half-brick’s games are good, but no way on they on PixelJunk level. You’re crazy.

  12. Too old school for me.

  13. Not bad at all for 200 points. I like the different game options and menu system.

  14. Walker Texas Rapist

    The credits are playable? Thats pretty damn cool.

  15. Sony need to make a game like this for the PSP Go. I’d pay $4 for a portable game like this.

  16. I’ll give the demo a spin. Sounds different at least.

  17. Never heard of HalfBrick. I’ll keep my eyes peeled now.

  18. I think DE’s saying they COULD one day be at that level.

  19. Does it have any bugs or glitches? Most of the community stuff is pretty buggy.

  20. I just played the demo, pretty legit and fun little game. I could see it being addictive for some people.

  21. Is about three hours of play, I had ONE glitch where the game slowed after the completion of a level. If took about 5 seconds to get back to the hub. Hardly worth noting.

  22. Are the Halfbrick guys Xbot exclusive?

  23. First community game I have tried.

  24. You are a HAT? WTF?

  25. Yeah, I wonder what the story is.

  26. No we are not xbox exclusive, and we are looking to take these sorts of games to other platforms, but nothing has been confirmed as of yet.

  27. It doesn’t look like it. If you check out their website, it says they made Heatseeker for the PSP. Hopefully they will focus their efforts on the new PSP Go.

  28. good review!

  29. Yep, PSP Go development be great!

    Cant wait for your zombie game, when will it be released?

  30. Cool. Thanks for answering.

  31. I love pacifism mode on GWRE2! I might have to try this.

  32. 200 points seems like a great deal on this.

  33. Tried the demo. Thought it was allright, but I’ll keep my 200 points.

  34. I might have to buy some point after playing the demo. do any of the face buttons do anything in the full game?

  35. I’ll happily support an indie dev with my $4.00. Good luck Halfbrick!

  36. Never heard of it, but I’m intrigued now.

  37. Did halfbrick make or port the PSP version of Heatseeker? The Ps2 version was decent enough.

  38. I’d love to have you guys interviewed. Hint. hint.

  39. I need this types of games to unwind after playing a sandbox game or RPG for hours.

  40. DO the backgrounds animate like the ‘Take on Me’ video?

  41. Why doesn’t MS make the community games easier to access, or at least promote them more? Having a free game a week would get people to go to that section.

  42. Not bad at all. I played the hell out of survival mode. Like the review said, it’s the best part of the game.

  43. Yeah, the menu is totally kick-ass. For those that haven’t played it feels like the game. Well-designed.

  44. I’d never heard of this game before, but it looks like it might be worth of $2.50.

  45. Haha, I thought I was cheap.

  46. Looks like ants are eating the cheese.

  47. Had to buy this after playing the demo.

  48. Looks like a cool little game. I’ll probably try the demo when I get a chance.

  49. looks like my kind of game. I’ll probably check the demo.

  50. Wow,pretty interesting,i hope.

  51. Now they don’t call them community games anymore, they are indie.

  52. Yeah, I play these before going to bed. Its hard to sleep after 3 hours of fallout 3.

  53. No, they don’t.

  54. I love this game.

  55. Only 200 points might have to look this one up.

  56. you make it sound delicious.

  57. The Halfbrick games have been great so far and I’m looking forward to seeing more of them.

  58. I’ll certainly check out the demo. It’s a shame they haven’t done more with the community games. Selling them would be as simple as adding a few achievement points.

  59. yeah it is im dling it now :).After reading this review and watching some gameplay to see the game in action i’d say it’s worth 200 points.

    I agree with ya desert,They could be the Q-Games of xbox.The new game Raskulls looks pretty interesting.