The "neighborhood gang goes on a wild adventure" is a fantastic theme for a story. We've seen this plot hook used countless times across literature, TV, and movies. The Goonies set out to search for pirate treasure, The Losers Club from It, and more recently Stranger Things. Kids living their lives get a fantastic and sometimes supernatural call to action, every step pulling them further from their comfort zone. Echo Generation follows this formula but then doubles down on just how much supernatural it tries to fit in. This brother/sister pairing's adventure begins humbly with trying to film a homemade movie that escalates with all manner of sci-fi and spooky theme.
Dylan lives at home with his mom and little sister. We learn that his father disappeared a while ago due to a few interactions around the house. Dylan only planned to spend the day with his friends filming his new sci-fi film when a spaceship crashes in a cornfield next to the town. Investigating the crash Dylan finds a corpse in the cockpit charred on re-entry, attached to it is his father's security badge. Searching to find out more about his father's disappearance, and what might have led to this crashed spaceship Dylan begins to hunt down the clues to find out the truth. With each clue, Dylan finds you'll end up in new parts of the town to explore, each new area is also relatively small. By the time you've enjoyed each story beat, there will be a large setting change and a new mystery in front of you. At one point in the story, you'll find yourself fighting a skeletal dog/cat/bird hybrid, and then two scenes later you're calling down a spaceship filled with jackalopes.
If you laid out the general geography of this town it would make next to no sense, but the rapidly changing settings kept the game fresh. One frustrating part about the overworld was with how cash poor your characters are, especially in the early game, you'll find yourself wasting a lot of time walking 4-5 screens away to the nearest bed to sleep to have to walk all the way back, complete one or two battles, and then find yourself in need of a bed to fully regain your health.
The sense of natural exploration through Echo Generation is fantastic, there's a relatively easy-to-spot "next step" in the story, but as you explore more you'll find other interesting items. Each of these then ties into other quests around town that can earn you new attacks, powerful items, and new pet companions. It really rewards players for talking to each character, exploring the far reaches of the map, and remembering what requests the different denizens of the town have given you. The subquest I enjoyed the most involved gathering a number of puppets around the world for a strange man dressed as a jester to create his "army of dolls".
Combat in Echo Generation might be a bit different from what you expect, the largest of this is how minimal a part "random" battles take. Through the whole adventure, there were only three or four areas of the world that had repeatable encounters, and even fewer that you'd get drawn into while walking around. Instead, the majority of battles you fight will be the equivalent of minibosses or full-on bosses. Each battle you fight you'll probably find yourself only just prepared, this lack of randomized battles likely allowed the team at cococucumber to balance the game really well. Sure you can spend some time grinding encounters from the three respawning rats early in the game but it's going to be an absolute slog. Likewise where the rats might only give you $1 or $2 in post-battle earnings figuring out a strategy and beating that next boss will likely earn you $50. It almost feels like you're getting punished by trying to seek out the repeat encounters.
The core part of battle also requires a lot of player skill. Every single attack you use has a different way to turn it into a critical hit, later in the game, these critical hits can do almost double the amount of damage and inflict further effects on enemies making them extremely important. Dylan's initial punch attack you just need to press the interact button when the punch symbol appears on the screen, easy enough. Some of Dylan's later attacks require you to line up a cursor with a moving target, press the interact button when two images overlap, or even play a rhythm minigame to charge your attack.
Your cat has an incredible attack that can paralyze an enemy and requires you to feverishly jiggle the thumbstick like you're playing Mario Party as a balloon rubs over your cat's fur creating a static attack. Just as you'll need to know to time your attacks you will also be reacting to enemy attacks to minimize damage, some boss fights even have you gaining control over the party allowing you to move them left and right to avoid attacks.
This has got to be the most enjoyable and interactive reimaginings of turn-based combat I've ever encountered. The idea of not just selecting your new powerful attack from a menu, but having to learn how to use it, or learn how to avoid enemy attacks gives you a chance to continually improve. So many boss fights I lost on the first two or three attempts I was able to beat by continuing to learn their strategy. Dylan might not have been getting more powerful through battle, but I was able to defeat the boss through experience. Some of these bosses are so fun and creative from a scrap metal monster or giant worm, to a large tentacled beast prowling the halls of the school.
When not hunting after your next clue to the strange occurrences of the town or kicking monster butt you'll be taking in the sights. Echo Generation is an absolutely gorgeous game to look at. Each of the characters and environments is so heavily detailed while retaining a voxel look it's two conflicting ideas that work so well together. Past the cornfield is a beautiful cliff looking out to a gorgeous pixel art sunset that I just had to stop and stare at while first visiting. Watching voxel chunk grass progressively turn into 2D trees, and the incredibly detailed light and shadow of the clouds in the sky has got to be one of the greatest sights to behold. Any more detail in the voxels and you'd begin to see smoothing and more traditional 3D characters, but that bit of chunking around the edges really root the game in its time period.
Not only does the look of the game match the timeline but so does the soundtrack created by Pusher, a Toronto-based artist. Each of the tracks does a fantastic job of fitting the theme and tone of its location. When you first boot the game you're greeted with eerie synthesizers and sci-fi-like whooping noises. Before you can even start the game players get an idea of the tone of the game they're about to play. Walking around town the chiptune/synthesizer feel continues but with an upbeat attitude and mixed in sounds of dog barks and cars driving by not just creating more ambient noise but staying in time with the music. Not too sure how many other games can boast "panting dog" as a relevant part of their musical composition.
The most disappointing aspect of my time playing through Echo Generation was that there's a not very well-defined 'point of no return.' I thoroughly enjoyed exploring the world and knew that there were a few things that I was missing out on but planned to play until I reached a point of no return or finish the game and go back to collect extra attacks or other side-quests. After completing the game however trying to select my save file again only allows me to rewatch the credits, with no option for a chapter select or dropping the characters back before the point of no return that save file is now essentially useless.
Echo Generation was a fantastic experience to play. It's so easy to get invested in one of these strange neighborhood adventure stories that you'll say you just want to beat one more boss... and end up clearing through the next three. More places to fully recover your party and a more well-defined point of no return would have definitely been appreciated as quality of life options. For someone who wants to play a game with a lighthearted story that only takes 10-15 hours to complete, is filled with unique combat, and looks and sounds gorgeous then I wouldn't be able to recommend Echo Generation more.
TechRaptor reviewed Echo Generation on Xbox Series X with a code provided by the developer/publisher. This game is also available on Xbox One, PC, and GamePass.
- Interactive combat
- Wild story
- Eyecatching visuals
- Few recovery points
- Frustrating point of no return