Echoes of Sorrow
You're not sure who you are. You don't know where you are. And a mysterious dark shadow is following you around, clouding your memory. It's shaping up to be quite a bad day as Echoes of Sorrow, a new casual adventure game from BlitPop, begins. This title drops a few hidden object scenes to flavor an otherwise straight-up free roaming adventure game that emphasizes exploration and inventory puzzles. Not only do you have to gather items from various parts of the game, but you're usually not sure what to do until the very last moment. It's a smartly paced game that hits all the sweet spots for casual adventure fans.
With very little information to go on, you feel much like the main character in Echoes of Sorrow as you start playing. A short, textless cutscene introduces things, and then you find yourself thrown into the game, staring at a few strange and haunting scenes right off the bat. The interface is standard, assigning all actions to the mouse and a cursor that changes when hovering over something you can interact with, so there's at least one familiar thing you can hold on to at the beginning.
Echoes of Sorrow is divided into small areas that represent a portion of the main character's past. You must unlock these one by one, completing the puzzles within each to learn more about the characters' pasts and freeing pieces of your soul in the process. For example, the first area puts you in your childhood home, filled with mildly disturbing images from your past. You'll eventually move on through your life, setting emotions at ease and filling in the massive gaps in your memory.
Puzzles are largely inventory based and feature a lot of backtracking, collecting, and experimentation. You'll often need to find certain items in order to gain access to parts of the level introduced early on, forcing you to abandon scenes in favor of pressing onward. Eventually you'll gather the things you need and be able to gut the entire level of its secrets, but accomplishing that requires some thorough exploration and a very keen eye.
Hidden object scenes are kept at a minimum, with just three or four very short interludes per area. They're also surprisingly easy, with just a dozen or so items to find, none of which are obscured or masked in any strange way. The hit box for clicking on items is also rather large, making it easy to accidentally nab something you weren't even sure you were trying to take. The game's hint system is very generous as well, so if you're not one for hidden object games, you don't have to overlook Echoes of Sorrow!
Analysis: Echoes of Sorrow is a smartly-made game that holds fast to its casual adventure roots. Level design is surprisingly open-ended, affording you the freedom to roam around, click on things that interest you, and gather things as you please. The puzzles are also well-done, though they require more of an eagle eye than a genius brain. If you ever get stuck, it's probably because you missed some detail in a room, not because you can't figure out how to solve a puzzle in front of your face.
The whole amnesia shtick has been done many times before, but in the case of Echoes of Sorrow, it actually works quite well. The story unfolds while you play, introducing bits of information as you solve puzzles and explaining a few things with quick cutscenes before and after each area. Even though it's trite, the story and setting in Echoes of Sorrow is one of the game's several strong points, so don't pass it by simply because it stars an amnesiac!
Although the mini-games are kept to an absolute minimum, Echoes of Sorrow has some of the most creative diversions I've seen in a game of this genre. For example, in the first area, you'll find a child's picture created with bits of fabric. Your job is to drag the cutouts to where they belong, much like an abstract dress-up game. Unusual? Yes. Fun? Very much so.
A strong adventure game that doesn't deviate from its core, Echoes of Sorrow will keep you busy for several intriguing hours, unfolding an interesting story while leading you through an unusual world filled with memories and mildly unsettling images.