Echo Generation Review – Small Town Pixelated Heroes

    Title: Echo Generation
    Developer: Cococucumber
    Release Date: October 21, 2021
    Reviewed On: Xbox Series X
    Publisher: Cococucumber
    Genre: Adventure RPG

It’s no secret that we yearn for nostalgia. Now that I’ve entered my 30’s, I reflect on the days of exploring the town on skateboards with a group of friends. I also seek a similar experience through media with shows like Stranger Things and all the modern remakes of my favorite films.

The newest game developed by Cococucumber, Echo Generation, seems to understand my hunger for retro by mashing up a puzzle adventure with a turn-based battle system. However, while there’s so much to look forward to in this adventure, some quality-of-life systems could make it far more enjoyable.

Echo Generation has players choose their character from some pre-built designs. Luckily, this doesn’t hurt the narrative because no matter the gender or threads, the story’s impact is the same. After your mom asks you to play with your little sister, you reluctantly agree as you add her to your party.

From here, the idea is that you are an aspiring filmmaker and lover of sci-fiction and mystery. You and your friends have plans to make a movie, but you’ll need to wrap up a few required elements to make it exactly what you want. However, things go from weird to strange to deadly as you start the quest off fighting raccoons, to fighting a murderous clown doll, to someone finding out that a company your dad works for could be the cause of it all.

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It’s a freakin rabbit hole without logic. While playing, you aren’t sure if these kids just imagine everything or if you’re actually talking to animals and ghosts. I honestly checked out the moment a frog quizzed me, so I didn’t bat an eye when an alien ship landed.

The narrative and adventure segments come together nicely, but I feel like the game wanted to be bigger at some point. For starters, your sister is the only real party member aside from buddies who join your party. Skills are unlocked through gameplay and completing quests for comic books, but considering how varied these skills are, it seems they were meant for additional characters.

In all honesty, the game still works, but I didn’t feel attached to the idea that a kid and their little sister were taking on all these challenges. I would have preferred it to be a group of friends. That said, the added buddies are cool in execution as they provide additional dialog and can even affect questlines.

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Adventure segments are pretty much scavenger hunts as you explore each area for items to deliver to an NPC who will hopefully give you an item that can be used to progress the narrative. It’s this way throughout the entire game. However, players have side activities available, which is mainly just a way to get new skills to use in battle. It’s fun akin to a point-and-click adventure where every new item is a possible tool to use somewhere in the game, which is sometimes puzzling but satisfying overall.

Progression becomes a little cheesy at times, though when tied to having enough funds to progress. Money is obtained through quests and battles but fights only provide around a dollar per victory. This ultimately means you shouldn’t waste your money on consumables, which is a possibility that you’ll need to consider since you’ll most likely use them in a boss fight. Also, if you die, well, you don’t get items back, even though you return to the most recent autosave.

This introduces a few moments of possible soft-lock battles where if you’re not strong enough or have enough healing items, there’s no way you’ll be able to win. Further, you revive with half your HP, so you need those items to re-enter the fight. I pretty much fought every battle up to the boss, made my way to an area where I could sleep, and then journeyed back to fight the boss. Luckily, grunt fights can be passed up to fight the boss with full HP.

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Battles are pretty fun but initially frustrating. Each attack and defense portion has a button prompt to add more power or defend against an enemy attack. You must get these down and correct every time, or else you’ll die even to grunt enemies. Skills also have a unique mini-game, but once I had the most powerful skill, I never used any others.

I believe this is tied to the leveling system, which allows you to upgrade HP, Attack, or Skill Points. You can ruin your entire game if you don’t put any points into HP, as late-game enemies will one-shot anyone with less than 15.

I would have preferred the developers to use a more traditional leveling system that automatically upgraded the character’s stats across each level. Instead, I was forced to make every character pretty much the same so that they were powerful and caused enough damage. Further, there isn’t a defense stats, so you’ll know exactly what damage you’ll cause and what you’ll receive every time. Regardless, I had fun with the system, and the various enemy types made each encounter a trial to master in terms of timing.

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Character and environment design are charming as they are inspired by retro pixel art. The 3D designs provide a sense of imaginative exploration through this world, and each scenery is expertly crafted to encourage the player to keep going.

This ties into the overall narrative; while it isn’t emotionally charged, it’s rather funny during many moments. The soundtrack deserves to be mentioned as it becomes a highlight of the experience. In each area, you begin to memorize the tunes and hum along.

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Echo Generation is an imaginative adventure that provides several doses of nostalgia for all who play. However, the battle system requires quality improvements. In its current state, a player could be forced to restart due to wrong choices made during early gameplay. Still, the adventure segments and character interactions are charming enough to warrant a weekend spent cracking this small-town mystery.

Score:
7/10
A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Azario Lopez

Hanging out max, relaxing all cool.