Echoes+

Binary Zoo tell me this game is called Echoes+, but I don't think that adequately describes it. I think a more adequately descriptive name would be HYPER NEON ASTEROID TECHNO HELL. That would give people more of an insight, or warning, if you will. It's an frenetic intraocular dose of no-nonsense, twin-stick bullet-hell carnage, and I bloody love it.

Echoes+ is all gameplay, no frills. Lo-fi neon graphics and a pumping dance music soundtrack set the scene, and the glitchy effects on the screen make it seem like the game is being played on a slightly busted arcade cab. There are six different modes to play, each providing a new way to feel the pure adrenaline rush of old-school arcade style gaming.

In Echoes mode,the high score is king. You sling a titchy spheroid this way and that, frantically destroying each and every asteroid that comes your way, grabbing score multipliers or weapon power-ups or blowing apart black holes, all in the pursuit of the best possible points haul. Each impact with a bit of space debris reduces your health, and levels get progressively harder, introducing delights such as asteroid belts or fire spitting black holes. A place on the top 10 leaderboard is the ultimate prize, but I have to say that the people on there are obviously made of sterner stuff than I. I wish everyone the best of luck trying to knock them off!

Time attack and Survivor mode are fairly self explanatory, but still very fun. Time Attack is the mode that kept me most interested: get the highest score possible in three minutes, with each impact reducing the score, and the difficulty ramping up throughout. In Survivor, you only have one life so any slip up and it's see you, space cowboy.

Classic mode drops us into a Amiga green screen version of the game, with only three lives to get the highest score possible. The twist here is that movement and shooting are controlled by the same stick, so to shoot in a particular direction you also have to fly that way. This definitely adds a new level of difficulty to proceedings.

The last two modes are Asteroid Belt and Meteor, both of which simply fling one type of enemy at you. The former sends multiple snake-like asteroid belts (which are very difficult to kill and get progressively faster) at a time into the level, while the latter bombards you with screen-filling waves of blue meteors that need to be punched through to survive.

Global leaderboards and a hundred or so trials spice up the blasting action, but for me simply beating a personal record is enough of a thrill to warrant returning again and again to Echoes+. The only limit to my ability to play is how long my eyes hold out, as blinking is not really an option.

Echoes+ is a great game, and a ferocious test of skill. I'd recommend it to anyone who is interested in twin-stick or bullet-hell games, or for anyone looking for a pure challenge. You can get it here for free, but you can (and should) give a donation to the developer!