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Game Over Online ~ Echo Night: Beyond

GameOver Game Reviews - Echo Night: Beyond (c) Agetec, Reviewed by - Thomas Wilde

Game & Publisher Echo Night: Beyond (c) Agetec
System Requirements PlayStation 2
Overall Rating 65%
Date Published Friday, October 15th, 2004 at 05:22 PM

Divider Left By: Thomas Wilde Divider Right

Despite what you might be thinking, this isn't a survival horror game. It's got some of the trappings of one, but Echo Night: Beyond is actually a horror-themed adventure game.

I usually don't like first-person adventure games. There's no particular reason, except that most of them seem to be phoned-in, unnecessarily difficult PC games. You know the type; Dreamcatcher used to publish these kinds of games all the time, like the Dracula titles that got ported to the PSOne.

Echo Night: Beyond is a first-person adventure game, and I'd like it if not for one simple thing: it likes to kill you without warning.

Set in August of 2044, Beyond places you in the spacesuit of Richard Osmond, who intended to marry his fiance Claudia on the moon. Suddenly, the shuttle takes heavy damage from an unknown source and crashes into the international lunar station.

Richard wakes up some time later. He's alone, surrounded by darkness and silence. Claudia is nowhere in sight, her wedding ring is lying on the seat next to him, and someone has written "Come to the facility" in red on the seat in front of him.

The facility in question is the lunar station. When Richard finds his way in, he becomes the only living person on the Moon, with the possible exception of Claudia; the rest are ghosts, some of whom have been driven to madness by a mysterious fog.

Richard's space suit also monitors his heart rate. When he gets too close to a hostile ghost, his blood pressure goes up; if it reaches three hundred beats a minute, Richard's heart explodes. Game over.

You can bring your heart rate back down by injecting sedatives, which are appropriately rare, or by leaving a ghost's territory. The only way to get rid of a ghost is to find some item or trigger some event that reminds it of its life: a reunion with a family member, a favorite toy, a flask of whiskey. When they disappear, gone forever, they'll usually drop an item that you'll need to progress.

That's the simple version of progress in Beyond: explore your environment, dodge hostile ghosts, solve simple puzzles, pick up items, open up new parts of the base, and eventually find whatever you need to bribe a ghost into disappearing.

It's not a bad formula. Beyond, if nothing else, is decidedly creepy; the searchlight on Richard's suit lends a surreal glow to the darkened corridors of the lunar station, which is in itself surreal. On the face of it, Beyond's setting is bleak corridor after bleak corridor, but then it'll throw something in there to break the monotony: broken escalators, mischievous ghosts who leave handprints on your visor, a painted room where a country field sweeps out into the distance. Beyond could be accused of having boring environments, but it's not so much that as that the environments bait you into complacency before hitting you up with something truly weird.

There's almost no music, which effectively aids the sense of isolation and despair; you're alone with the sound of Richard's breath and heartbeat, and the moans of the unquiet dead.

There are plenty of random events that're there for no other reason than to freak you out, whether it's sudden explosions, light bulbs blowing out, or the sound of distant footsteps.

The ghosts are great, as they actually act like ghosts. They can walk straight through walls, they're nearly invisible most of the time, they moan in nearly unintelligible non-sequiturs, and when they attack, it's a sudden and utterly frightening experience.

That's also the biggest problem Beyond has. The hostile ghosts are invisible unless you get right up next to them and Richard's heart rate goes up at an unbelievable clip when he's that close, so you can suddenly find yourself at two hundred fifty beats a minute without any warning. It's very easy to be ambling along, relatively safe, and suddenly get nailed.

That's made doubly irritating by the lack of any kind of quick-turn option, so if you find a ghost in narrow confines, it's nearly impossible to fake around it without your heart exploding. If you had any defensive options against the ghosts, like a gadget that could stun them temporarily, it'd get rid of the problem.

Instead, playing Beyond is a little like running around in a thunderstorm with a lightning rod; you're going to die, but you're not exactly sure when.

The rest of the time, Beyond is relatively slow-paced. You get most of the really valuable items from ghosts, so you'll usually be exploring the base in search of searchlight batteries, sedatives, and, very occasionally, a quest item. The lunar base is enormous, with a lot to see, but not a lot to do, so winning the game without a walkthrough will involve a lot of fruitless searching... and, occasionally, being nailed by a ghost before you know it's there.

Echo Night: Beyond is a great idea for a game, and I like it more than I really should. It'd be a great survival horror game, and it's not a bad adventure game, but it's intensely frustrating. It's long periods of searching eerie, near-empty environments punctuated by fifteen-second death scenes, and I can't recommend that to anyone.


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