Originally released in 2013, Lost Echo is the first Android game created by Kickback Studios, a development team made up of just of just five people. This modern point-and-click adventure game combines elements of mystery, exploration and science fiction, ultimately creating a mobile game that went above and beyond my expectations.
Upon beginning a new game, you are asked to choose between two gameplay modes. The first is entitled ‘Casual Mode’ which provides the player with the perfect amount of guidance and simplifies the puzzles you will have to face. Meanwhile, ‘Normal Mode’ raises the difficulty level significantly and doesn’t provide as much help throughout the game. If you enjoy a challenge, then by all means go for ‘Normal Mode’, but I decided to go with ‘Casual Mode’ as I didn’t want to end up smashing my mobile.
The tone is set for this game instantly as you receive a call on your mobile. No, it’s not a real call but it did take me a few moments to realise what was happening, as the graphics are strikingly realistic. Once you answer the call you witness a somewhat flat interaction between two lovers: journalist Chloe, and young entrepreneur Greg, as they arrange to meet in a park.
Suddenly, the black screen you have been reading from is transformed into a crisp, elegant image of a futuristic windmill, twirling in the breeze as you enter a picturesque park nestled between looming skyscrapers. It becomes clear that Lost Echo occurs in a near-future world, but it’s far more difficult to guess what that world entails.
For now, you can simply revel in the beautiful, detailed world that Lost Echo takes places in. That is, until you’re sent to buy ice creams from the strange ice cream man who will judge you on which ice cream flavour you want. I chose vanilla because I’m boring. In hindsight, I suppose this short section of gameplay is somewhat of a tutorial that helps you grasp the simple controls, but it doesn’t feel like one. The controls are extremely simple to grasp: tap the screen and Greg will walk to that location, double tap and he’ll run. Tap on an object to interact with it, or hold two fingers down to reveal hotspots that will guide you to the right objects. Boom, done, back to ice cream.
It is throughout this opening rendezvous that I experienced my one and only phase of disappointment in Lost Echo. You see, Chloe and Greg are supposed to be in a relationship; in fact later on you’re even told that they live together. However, their conversation at this pivotal moment in the plot seems distant and far too cordial. There’s no sense at all that these two characters are in love, or ever have been in love for that matter.
The lack of emotion shown between these two characters may not have mattered so much if it were any other game, but Lost Echo is heavily story-driven and this couple are at the centre of everything.
As Greg returns from the ice cream stand after a lengthy chat with the sardonic ice cream man, Chloe receives a call and makes her way towards the other side of the park. As she reaches the path, blinding white light engulfs her, and Greg watches as his girlfriend disappears into thin air before being knocked unconscious by the light’s impact.
Although I’d love to go into more details about Lost Echo and its incredible story, I feel it’s important that you discover the numerous twists and turns the game has to offer by yourself. For now, I’ll share only one spoiler so put on your tin hats because this sucker’s about to get weird.
Following the strange episode in the park, Greg finds himself in a hospital, being attended to by various nurses and doctors who are curious about the event. When Greg’s best friend Tom arrives, Greg is clearly worried about what’s happened to Chloe and needs to know if she’s okay. Here it is revealed that nobody, not even Tom, has ever heard of Chloe. There is no evidence of her ever being in Greg’s life or of her existing at all. This story like may not be unprecedented but believe me: this is not the biggest twist in the plot.
From here on out Lost Echo is a compelling, puzzling, even lightly philosophical account of Greg’s determination to find out what happened in the park and, more importantly, what happened to Chloe. Though it is clear from the beginning that Greg is a critically average man – except for his odd hatred of clocks – he traverses the city searching for clues, gathering information and forming a crew of strangers to help him solve the mystery.
Each location you visit and character you interact with is crafted to perfection. There is a downtown bar, for instance, where soft shadows dance with neon accents as morose patrons gaze indifferently at a brightly lit flatscreen TV. As you mingle with washouts, you’re accompanied by moody piano and melodious drumming, drawing you further into the perfect film noir atmosphere. Meanwhile across town, there is an eccentric computer genius that won’t allow anyone to go within a metre of her, but she’s willing to help you (eventually), despite her boundaries. Throughout the entire game, there is only one section of Lost Echo that isn’t exquisitely detailed and well thought out, and that would be Greg’s kitchen, which is noticeably baron where every other place is rich and diverse.
In addition to meeting people and searching for clues, to complete your objectives you will need to solve a number of puzzles, including figuring out how a gambler is cheating his opponents, editing pictures on Greg’s home computer, and even a couple of chess riddles. You must also solve inventory-based challenges, such as combing and using different objects to progress to the next step. The Lost Echo inventory is neatly crafted and easy to use, but the best part of these challenges is having to use real logic, rather than guess work or button mashing. Each object has a variety of uses, but you must implement them in the correct way at the correct time to progress.
When events finally come full-circle at the end of Lost Echo, the impact is powerful, emotionally stirring and perhaps most importantly, open to interpretation.
In the end, I only have two problems with Lost Echo. Firstly, I’m still not convinced that Greg and Chloe even like each other, let alone were dating. Secondly, voice acting would have been a fantastic addition to the game, considering there’s a lot of creative, funny dialogue involved in gameplay.
Other than those minor flaws, I thoroughly enjoyed this game. Lost Echo is a compelling, cinematic and remarkably clever mobile game that anyone who enjoys story-driven adventures will love.
Lost Echo is everything a modern point-and-click adventure game should be, but that doesn’t mean it’s perfect.