Thanks to their simple file format, getting Japan only PSP demos is a snap. Thank goodness, because that means you can play the three level demo of Echochrome without hassle.
The experience is quite interesting, but I am not completely sold. The stylings are nice and simple – an absolute bare minimal interface, simple levels and constantly looping string music make this the closest thing to therapeutic gaming. Despite the Japanese text, the controls are easy to learn; you can make your stick figure avatar either move faster along the terrain, or stop to “think”, giving you time to do the same. The D-pad of course allows you to rotate the world, which is the mechanic used to solve all the puzzles.
How well does said mechanic fare? It isn’t easy to say from the demo. The rules of Echochrome are deceptively simple; the perspective from which you observe any of the Escher-inspired worlds is what governs how it behaves. For example, if there is a gap in the floor, moving the level around so that it is hidden by another part of the level allows you to cross over it (if it cannot be seen, it doesn’t exist). Positioning the level correctly will allow you to flal through a pit and safely onto another platform that, from another perspective, looks unreachable. It is all mind bending and surprising, but in the end it reminds me of what I will now call the Portal Conundrum. In both games you get a handful of mechanics taught to you that will become indispensable to solving the puzzles, and at least in the case of Portal, too many puzzles were a mater of figuring out what order to use those mechanics in, as opposed to the best puzzles which asked you to truly defy the laws of physics.
If Echochrome can include some really nasty brain twisters, or levels that require constant and precise movements (so, for example, your avatar can be navigated five stories down without falling), then we may have a real gem on our hands. Otherwise we will have an interesting but unfulfilled tech demo. Let’s hope at the very least that this one gets a stateside release in the future.