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05-14-2003, 09:07 AM

05-14-2003, 09:07 AM
Alter Echo
You think you know shape-shifting, huh? Well, this ain’t your typical Mystique.
By Jon "Kid" Gibson | 5/14/2003

Developer: Outrage
Publisher: THQ
Release Date: January 2003
Genre: Action


It's not often that a game leaves someone speechless, but Alter Echo does just that. Yet it's not for the reasons you many think.

See, the name alone is a puzzle all in itself. It’s awkward, yes. But however strange, it still sounds cool. The same goes for the not-so-conventional plotline, which follows Nevin, a shaper, to the planet Proteus. Employed by a mega-corporation that mines multiplast, you’re sent there to investigate a new form of plast that has been invented by the devious Shaper Paavo. Plast, you should know, is a substance that shapers can bond with physically, thus morphing into different creatures. It’s quite the trendy commodity in the future. This new kind of plast, though, dubbed Xenoplast” is smart -- so think Playdoh with a brain. But imagine if your Playdoh realized that its entire existence was perpetuated because kids wanted to mush it. Well, the “Xenoplast” catches on to the corporation’s scheme, and won’t stand for it any more. Defensively, using its talent to “Retaliate,” the “Xenoplast” starts spewing enemies for your killing pleasure.

You follow? That’s not even the toughest part to explain, but it helps to prime you for how you’ll be combating all these “plast” creatures. First off, there are three shapes that you can assume: “Melee,” which is the human-like mode, complete with saber; “Gun,” in which you’ll become of a bulky, mech-like machine, blasting missiles and heavy artillery; and “Stealth,” which allows Devin to navigate skinny paths to evade enemies, essentially becoming invisible.

The primary fighting mechanism then comes in the form of “Time Dilation.” Switching into this spatial-freezing screen presents you with a huge map of what looks like all-out craziness. In reality, it’s quite an effective way to fight, begging players to learn how to carve out grid-based paths using excellent hand-eye coordination (I sucked the first few dozen times). Depending on how many power-ups you snag during your run and how large of a chain you can link together, bigger and better things will happen to your foes. Of course, equipping more powerful weapons incites even more damage, thus RPG elements come into play, too. Newly added are buddy characters that battle alongside Nevin, so the more dynamic your chain of “Time Dilation” combos, the more extraordinary your fellow warriors will appear.

Visually, as you can imagine, all this confusion -- once you make sense of it, of course -- provides for quite a unique look. Tons of camera filters, blur effects, time-bending trances, and other such graphical quirks have been stirred into Alter Echo, making it wholly distinctive. Even the color palette is something uncommon, focused heavily on bright does of yellow and accompanying tints.

No doubt, there’s much more to be said about the game, but for now just try to discern the last 500 words by reading it a few more times over.