I think the idea of PSP Minis is absolutely brilliant. After the success of the Apple’s iPhone and its plethora of cheap forms of entertainment, bringing the same structure to the download-only PSPgo is a no-brainer. Developer Halfbrick is one of the most avid supporters and have released their latest title Echoes for the service. Echoes is a simple premise that reminds me of Crystal Quest on XBLA. The object is to collect crystals while avoiding what are called Echoes that you leave behind after collecting each of the said objects. Simple in design this little time-waster is actually quite a bit of fun once you get the feel for it.
Echoes uses a top-down perspective of the action as you assume the role of a little girl with a giant hat. The levels are broken down into various shapes and sizes, thus giving you tighter spaces to work with once you get into the later levels. There are 22 total maps to play around with and each one of them becomes increasingly more difficult. Of course the challenge would be for not if there wasn’t a catch to the action as you progress. Later in the game you will begin seeing new crystals that offer power-ups such as extra lives and even the ability to freeze time.
The glory of games like Echoes is that it can be played in less than five minutes at a time. Clearing a level usually takes less than a minute, but mastering them and posting the best time on your leaderboard will take some true dedication. Controlling your character runs relatively smooth with both the d-pad and the analog and outside of that there really isn’t anything else to contend with as far as control schemes go.
There are also a host of other modes at your disposal that take a spin on the established format. The first is called Jackpot and it basically gives you an open level and for each crystal you collect your multiplier increases. Of course the second you touch an Echo all is lost. This mode is as addictive as it sounds and will provide a steady challenge for anyone who feels they have mastered the game. The second mode is called Survival. Here you start the level with ten seconds and for each crystal you collect time increases. As you can imagine this becomes hectic as you scramble to keep the clock running.
The final mode is called Clockwork and it is by far the most unique of the bunch. Here you collect crystals the same as before but the catch is when Echoes are created, they do not move around the level. At first this sounds almost too easy, but when you consider that crystals can appear below the Echo you realize there has to be a catch. This is the only mode where other buttons come into play. You can use the shoulder buttons to manipulate time in order to move the crystals, but be careful as one wrong move and the Echoes will end up appearing right in where you are standing.
Echoes is an addictive game that really delivers a great bite-sized experience for the small price of $2.99. If the trend continues PSPgo may have an equivalent of the iPhone game community with solid content with impulse buy prices. If you enjoy the idea of games like Crystal Quest where collecting items while attempting to dodge obstructions intrigues you this is definitely worth dropping the three bucks. There is more than enough content here to keep you interested.