Echoes of the Past: The Revenge of the Witch (Collector's Edition)
Year Published: 2012
Publisher: Big Fish Games
Echoes of the Past: The Revenge of the Witch is an enormous game for 2012. Nearly every scene is packed with items to find, puzzles to solve, chests to open, and multiple doors and paths to explore further. You will find much of this stuff locked off until you progress and locate the correct items to use on them. The game is of decent length, especially for a 2012 HOG, and took me almost 8 hours to finish.
As the game begins, a wizard (telepathically) informs you that a Witch has imprisoned him and taken over the Kingdom of Orion. The only way to stop the Witch is to find 10 magic gems and place them in a staff that can counter her powers. Each gem is guarded by a different monster (giant spider, giant raven, demon wolves, etc.), which are usually also holding an important person hostage (doctor, mayor, princess, etc.) and/or blocking the way forward. None of this explains the game's title (there is no time travel, and although it is taking place in a fictitious medieval setting, it's not what I would consider "echoes" of that time period), and I'm not sure what the Witch wants revenge for.
The Kingdom of Orion needs your help because their wizard is incompetent.
In any case, the inclusion of the monsters is actually a really cool idea. It reminded me of the PC/console classic, Shadowgate (a forefather of the hidden object genre), and in fact the wraith-like skeleton was reminiscent of a similar boss in that game. (I even noticed part of the music sounded a lot like the Shadowgate theme, but that could be coincidence.)
The only downside is that all of the monsters are defeated the same way - you find a magic powder in a chest that's unlocked after solving a long series of puzzles and hidden object scenes. While the game really puts you through the ropes to get those powders, I would've preferred if each monster had a more unique solution. Speaking of HO scenes, Echoes of the Past has several different types - the traditional ones where you find things off a list, ones where you place items in appropriate places around the scenery, and ones where you find all of a similar object (like flowers or clay pots). The variety keeps things fun and interesting.
This giant raven blocks your path.
So, I was really enjoying Echoes of the Past, despite its shortcomings in story, until I got to the bonus chapter. While it starts off much like the rest of the game, with the goal of finding a spell book that contains the Witch's powers, it eventually devolves into a series of tangrams (puzzles similar to Tetris), each more elaborate and annoying than the last. I typically frown on HOG's making you do the same type of puzzle more than once, and this game was already on thin ice for having every magic powder chest locked with a similar laser light puzzle. But at least after doing the first few of those, I got the hang of them, and the later ones weren't so bad. The problem with the tangrams is that they only got more frustrating as more pieces were added, and those pieces only fit together one particular way.
Usually when HOG's do tangrams, there is some indication if you have the pieces in the right places - they either lock in or there's some kind of color-coding to provide a clue, or the first one might already be placed for you. Here, there is nothing, and after struggling through the first few, I started looking at the in-game Strategy Guide for proper piece placement on the last ones. If you love tangrams, well here's your dream-come-true, but personally, I won't waste hours of my life on them and especially not for a bonus chapter that is just "find a magic book" and doesn't really resolve or add to the story.
Not friendly, indeed.
If there's one other minor complaint I have it's that, due to the amount of backtracking required, an in-game map would've been nice. Most modern HOGs include a map with fast travel, but Echoes of the Past is somewhat oldschool and has none. With the sheer amount of stuff that needs to be accessed with items only found later, it's easy to forget where you needed to use something and have to go back scouring every scene until you find it again. Sometimes HO scenes become active again in previous areas and the only way you know is when you stumble upon them during all your return trips. The game also tends to be a little laggy.
Echoes of the Past is certainly enjoyable for what it is. A better story and more convincing voice acting would've helped (the game does have sequels - here's hoping they improved on this) and the scenery is nice (and sometimes memorable - the creepy toy room looks like Santa's Workshop gone wrong), if a bit static (the HO scenes are noticeably lower quality than the rest). Fans of the hidden object genre will have a lot to do and love here - I only suggest skipping or using the guide to get through the tangrams in the bonus chapter if you decide to play it. There are no achievements, so there are no regrets if you do.