"Despite its solid production values, Lost Echo is a bit of a lost cause."
Lost Echo is an iOS point-and-click style graphic adventure by KickBack Studios. These types of games lend themselves well to a tablet's touchscreen interface and, as such, are becoming more prolific on these platforms. Whether it's refreshed classic games like Leisure Suit Larry or independently developed games like this one, it's good to see the genre doing well. Unfortunately, the growing library of graphic adventures also carries with it many entries that don't cut the mustard, and Lost Echo is one of them. Sure, the game has exceptional production values at a bargain-basement price (it's a full adventure for the price of a single episode in an episodic adventure), but I did not particularly enjoy it.
The story centers around a young man named Greg who's meeting his girlfriend at the park. While they're enjoying their afternoon, Chloe cryptically mentions that there's something she needs to tell Greg. While Greg goes to get some ice cream, Chloe takes a brief walk and that's where everything goes weird. In a flash of light, Chloe disappears and Greg wakes up in an alternate reality where Chloe doesn't seem to exist. Greg, who everyone thinks is going crazy, embarks on a quest to figure out what the hell is going on, what happened to Chloe, and how the two of them figure into this paradox.
This kind of story has been done before countless times and done much better, e.g. in Persona 2: Eternal Punishment. Not only does Lost Echo's plot fall into predictable clichés, but it does so with stiffly-written dialogue that lacks personality and does not flow like conversational English should. Speaking of personality, the one-dimensional characters completely lack in that department and I did not care about them or their trifles at all.
Not helping matters is the gameplay. Gameplay is standard fare for the genre (talk to people, collect items, manipulate items, and solve logic puzzles) and is generally all right, but some aspects are frustrating. Several puzzles in the game are horribly finicky and a few are nonsensically obtuse. Some require hair-trigger reflexes, pinpoint pixel hunting, or a combination of both. One of the more maddening puzzles involved knocking on a door using a proper cadence, but even though I perfectly executed the cadence dozens of times, it never registered and the game refused to let me progress. Moments like this made me want to smash my iPad. To add insult to injury, sometimes Greg wasn't 100% responsive to my taps and touches. He did not always move where I wanted and I sometimes wished he could move faster. It's easy to argue that some of these complaints are what's expected from a graphic adventure and that I have overlooked them in some games (like the slow character movement in The Longest Journey), but the difference is that in the games where I overlooked these annoyances, there were more engaging storylines with more colorful characters that motivated me to proceed forward.
The production values are where the game shines. The 3D polygonal locations look quite nice. I like the stylized post-modern look depicting the near future. Some of the buildings flanking the park have some pretty nifty architecture. Sadly, this cool world is populated by drab looking people. Going for realism doesn't require making characters nondescript, bland, and boring to look at. Do young people in the near future not wear hip clothing or stylish haircuts? I don't expect neon hair or chrome pants, but young adults should not have old-fashioned style like a stodgy dad or grandpa. Then again, the characters have personalities of cardboard, so perhaps their drab look coincides with that. Still, it just makes the whole experience feel like a chore to play. The music attempts to add some spark here and there, but while the compositions are contextually sound they aren't memorable. I do not see myself humming these tunes outside of the game, save for maybe the public domain classical pieces like Eric Satie's Gymnopédie No.1.
Despite its solid production values, Lost Echo is a bit of a lost cause. Playing it felt like going on a date with a reasonably attractive girl with a characterless personality and mundane attire. Conversation with her held potential, but there were too many awkward stumbles throughout the date. All in all, it was not a bad way to spend a weekend, but I certainly won't be calling her back for a second date.