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Echo

Developer / Publisher: Echo Project
01 April 2021
Echo - cover art
Glitchwave rating
3.85 / 5.0
0.5
5.0
 
 
168 Ratings / 6 Reviews
#101 All-time
#2 for 2021
When Chase decides to write a news segment about a historical case of mass hysteria that happened in his childhood home, the desert town of Echo, he uses the assignment as an opportunity to bring his old friend group back together. Despite three years of separation, memories of a tragedy from the time they spent together as children weigh heavily upon their minds, and the mysterious circumstances behind the event prove to be far from Echo's only dark secret that comes to haunt them.
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A spoiler-free perspective on my favorite game of all time
Echo is one of those games that is nigh impossible to review or look at from a "spoiler-free" perspective, but I'm going to attempt to fill that perspective here anyways. From the genres this game falls under, it's understandably a bit of a hard sell if you're not a gay furry (or you don't spoil at least one or two things), but I'm going to try to sell it anyways without any spoilers, because this work is just too good to remain in the niche of a niche of a niche and it's definitely got broader appeal outside of the "target demographic." It deserves at least recognition as an all-timer VN, and as an incredible horror game, not just as "a great gay furry horror VN", if that makes any sense. It's not just "good for a furry game", it's honestly not even just "good for a video game", it's just outright a great piece of storytelling.

Echo is a game I first played over a year and a half ago and it's still probably the most a piece of media has burrowed its way into the center of my brain, maybe besides Undertale, and I played that one when I was like 14 years old lol. Echo is an incredible, harrowing, emotional, crushing, beautiful and miserable read in all of the best ways. It's such a dense and complex work that you'll probably spend weeks, if not months (if not years) attempting to unravel all of it in your head. It's directly inspired by stuff like Silent Hill 2, the work of Stephen King, and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me/The Return, and there's a lot here that's vaguely reminiscent of the work of Michael Haneke and Denpa Horror as a whole. If you like any of those things I just mentioned, do yourself a favor and put this game on your radar, at the very least. The game is (shockingly) a literal free download, you can always just try it (get to the route split first though, it's the first time you are given 4 options to pick from). You really don't need to read any more of my review, but if you're not sold on giving it a go yet, I'll go into a bit more depth about a couple of the things that make this such an impactful work to me.

The dialogue writing here is easily some of my favorite from any game ever--I know that isn't a super high bar, considering most games that aren't interactive fiction have a million opportunities to break immersion (repeated dialogue lines, weird timing/pacing due to player input, mismatched animations, etc), but the writing in this game is dense, believable, and somehow at the same time, easy to parse. There are so many layers to so much of the dialogue in this game, this is extremely a VN you could reread and get a completely different experience the second time, but at the same time, people talk like people do in real life, and it's such a pageturner for it (or, in this case, a box-clicker, I presume). I admit, preferring this sort of prose is definitely an Americentric perspective, and I don't doubt that if you read Japanese fluently this isn't that fresh of an experience for VNs, but I don't and I'm used to most VNs reading like they've been passed through a Japanese to English translation barrier first (which, usually, they have), and I'm used to most authors of actual books getting way too verbose or flowery or playing loose with run-on sentences (or having also been passed through a translation barrier first, although the languages are generally closer to English than Japanese is). Admittedly, my perspective with "normal books" is limited, especially after honors English classes in high school beat "reading for fun" out of me, but hey, my enjoyment of VNs like this one is the only reason I've made any attempt and have had any success with trying to claw back that avenue of entertainment at all.

But the dialogue is just an interface for the characters--everyone is their own complete person, everyone has their own motivations and history and relationships--every single person in the main cast is wildly multifaceted and all of them get just the amount of screentime needed to shine. And yes, the length here is absolutely necessary and almost none of it is wasted. A 500k+ word long VN is a hard ask for prospective players, but there's a hell of a lot more stuff going on here than there is in most JRPGs twice or thrice its length in terms of pure hour count. If you've got time for a Persona, you've got time for Echo. Even if we go more apples to apples with other VNs, even other works that I enjoy like The House in Fata Morgana [ファタモルガーナの館] or the Umineko When They Cry - Answer Arcs [うみねこのなく頃に散] have multiple portions that could (and should) have had hours trimmed off (Fata repeats itself for a few hours longer than it needs to and it takes a while to get going, and Umi is filled with at least a dozen hours of moe SoL and fight scenes which really detract from the story if you came for the mystery and the drama and not the "cute/cool" factors). Meanwhile, Echo isn't really a work I would want to make any major changes to at all. Sure, there's a lot of tiny things, some more CGs would be nice, they've fixed the vast majority of the typos but there's still a couple here and there, but really nothing major. There is, like, one bland minor side character that only shows up in one route that I think could do with a rewrite, and a single route that's an 8/10 instead of a 10/10, but besides that Echo is firing all engines at all times, even if it's not immediately clear it's doing so. It's definitely a game that gets better the more you think about it, not worse.

The horror is something I feel a little out of my depth trying to discuss from a spoiler-free lens, but it's good. Like, really fucking good. Echo is much more of an atmospheric and tense horror than most horror games, it's subtle, it's uncomfortable, it gets under your skin. Truly deserves the label of "Psychological Horror", not in the tacky backrooms creepypasta way but in the narrower definition of the genre that film tends to use, in the same step as Psych Drama. Something that the furry perspective brings to horror is extremely detailed and vivid sensory descriptions. Part of me thinks that the propensity of furry writing to be very concerned with the minutia of smells and touch is due to the scene's links with fetishization (although that could just be the Crash talking)--but in the end? It doesn't really matter why the furry perspective is such a sensory one, this perspective does a huge amount for this game's horror identity and the writing here is better for its inclusion.

But that's about all I can say without spoiling anything. I know I've been vague here but trust me, it is almost impossible to talk about this game in any specificity without accidentally spoiling something. Again, this is a free download on itch and I highly recommend it, it's been my favorite game of all time for well over a year, and I don't see that changing any time soon. I can't wait to see what's next from Echo Project, and from other furry VN authors directly inspired by this. Truly a groundbreaking work, in almost every single one of the half-dozen genres it's tagged with here. If you like psych horror/drama, you owe it to yourself to see what Echo has to offer.
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tdstr 2022-03-20T11:10:06Z
2022-03-20T11:10:06Z
5.0
1
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the furry agenda free
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Americanized Denpa Mystery that's better than you'd think
I love Japanese VNs and loathe OELVNs. I'm not a furry. I'm straight and attracted to anime girls. If it has to be gay, I would rather it be yuri than yaoi. Ok, so it's pretty much confirmed I can't be the target audience for Echo, then. Wrong! While on the surface it seems I shouldn't be the target audience, I knew while playing my 2nd route that I was. I initially felt intrigue by the backstory of Echo and the bewildering atmosphere while playing through my 1st route, Carl's. However, I felt that the writing was pretty bad... yet I read on, intrigued by the possibility of it getting better. And it paid off! All the other routes were much better. The furry content did absolutely nothing to deter me from enjoying it. So if any of what I said about myself applies to you, don't be too quick to write off Echo. If you absolutely can't stomach gay furries on your screen that are frequently horny for each other, then by all means, dismiss Echo for that. I think that's fair. Just don't be so quick to assume that will ultimately deter you from experiencing the great story that Echo is!

The scenario of Echo is in many ways reminiscent of Japanese mystery and Denpa VNs. The furry part of it is more for show than anything, and doesn't really impact the scenario too much. I like this, because it gives people with certain aesthetic tastes something to call their own, while others like me can still enjoy the story without any major problems.
The scenario is rather mysterious, and quite frequently ambiguous. In terms of characters, their histories, their relationships, their wants and needs... it all feels rich and alive. Both the characters, and the town of Echo and its history. This is something I really want to praise about Echo. It gives a strong sense of weight to past events and is simply a well written story in terms of how or why it chooses to tell or show you certain things. While I like to compare it to Japanese VNs, one of the key differences in the writing is how American it feels. The characters are incredibly rough and undignified. But the key that makes it work is that there's something there, underneath all that. There's something there in all of them; there is something there that shaped them. No matter how unlikable they are. See, this is something that's going to work for some and not for others. I found it really interesting to get into the psychology of these characters. They fascinated me. In fact, the more I thought about it, each of the characters core personality traits felt pretty legitimate. Given how different all the characters are, that's worthy of praise, I think. The writer has written the whole main cast as somewhat complex, and in many ways, not being likeable at all (at least to me). However, reading Echo, one can't help but admire how much compassion the writer seems to feel for all the characters. It really rubs off on you. Sometimes this compassion even rubs off on you when it really should have no business doing so! That is a mark of a wonderful VN. It feels serious in how it intends to portray its characters, both major and minor roles, past and present. At the end of the day, despite being a mysterious horror VN, Echo's biggest strength is the portrayal of real human experiences. It's like the glue that holds all of it together. The town of Echo is a sad but fascinating place! There's nothing else quite like this in other VNs.

"That" scene near the end of Flynn's route is one of those scenes that is something very special, and that stays with you. It goes well beyond just being good writing and takes full advantage of the medium's other strengths. While most of the music in Echo appears to be royalty free (as opposed to composed specifically for the VN) there's nothing really wrong with that, as the music chosen tends to fit the scenes.
As for my preference in the characters and the routes, I would say that I found Flynn to be the most interesting character, but that I kinda hated him, to an extent. I also kinda hated Leo, and Chase. I mean, pretty much everybody is more or less an asshole. Yet they're all really interesting. Sometimes, I was a bit let down by how promising things seemed, but how the VN doesn't want to really "go there" for too long. Jenna was a bit undercooked. The little time the VN gave her was excellent. Perhaps they ran out of time, or just felt unsure of what more to do with this character. The inherent empathy towards Echo's characters is infectious, for good reason. My life has been one hell of a whirlwind and I feel like I know these guys. In some cases, I've even been these guys, and been through many similar experiences. That's why I enjoy it when Echo goes into more detail and gets the psychology right. Its treatment of hoodlums or otherwise highly flawed people confined to a shitty, small town really hits the mark.

So, Jenna was a bit undercooked, but who was the opposite? I would first like to point to Leo. Leo is one scary guy and someone we should all look at and tell ourselves to never become. Yet, his route was probably the best one to me. Everything about it was pretty much spot on. It's just impossible not to be moved by this route, which makes a strong point about toxic relationships. Next I think Flynn and Carl got an appropriate amount of development given who they were. Flynn is of course a much more difficult character to understand than Carl. Carl is almost stereotypical in a way, but I like that the issues he faced was written completely seriously. I feel like Carl was always appropriately written, and that people that feel like Carl, will empathize with him heavily. I think the same about all of the main characters, but that some of the other characters are harder to understand.
Chase, I don't want to speak about... all I'll say is that it's an interesting main character. TJ, I mean, I think Echo did what was appropriate with him, all things considered. Every route in Echo likes to give some extra screen time to one or two other friendly, secondary characters. I think most of these don't actually add much to the story and feel basic, but they generally don't detract, either. However, the more morally grey or morally black characters are pretty interesting!

So, comparing Echo with Japanese VNs, is there something this VN does that's outstanding? I would say it has to be the grimy, disgusting, yet realistic and compassionate take on this "desolate small town". While other psychological, horror, surrealistic and denpa VNs have perhaps been more impressive in some ways, Echo has carved a quality niché of its own with an almost Gummo-like quality to it. It knows the characters are flawed, but it insists on laying them bare before you.

Now, is there something about Echo that is not so good? Yes, plenty of things. I've given the game much praise, because I think it deserves it due to being an OELVN and furry of all things. Yet, the game does have flaws. Personally, I don't consider its unlikable cast to be a flaw. It's actually impressive that it manages to do so much with those characters. There still are plenty of real flaws in the game. One thing that often bothered me was the editing and pacing. Carl's route was clearly the worst offender, and none of the other routes had as massive issues with that, but all the routes suffered to some degree. Of course, slow pacing is often suitable for the material. The problem is that Echo's writing is so uncertain in terms of timing and pacing. It'll randomly meander, and then rush through some things, and then randomly meander in a similar fashion, and so on and so on. Even my favorite route (Leo's) had this problem at times, where the writing was pretty amateurish, and it would randomly prolong some scenes and end others. It's like they just force certain scenes to go on despite that the characters have run out of things to say. I still think what the game lacks here, it makes up for in other areas, of course. A good editor could've improved Echo. Another problem I had with Echo is that I'm just not really into most of the small talk, horny or otherwise. I sometimes kinda hate it to be honest and sometimes wished I was reading a similarly themed Japanese VN with cute anime girls instead. Of course, that wouldn't be Echo anymore, so don't get me wrong. Echo can remain Echo! I'm just glad I'm an observer because almost everything these characters are and talked about is the exact opposite of what I would want! It does have integrity in that area, it just often doesn't do anything for me, and there's a lot of arguments and small talk. Kudos for the realism, nonetheless.

Other flaws are mostly pretty small, and I would rather put emphasis on what Echo does well than its flaws. I think some readers may be disappointed by the slightly "unfinished" nature of the scenario in some areas. That is, that Echo sometimes introduces characters, concepts, or minor story arcs that just kinda disappear. Personally I'm not too distracted by this minor flaw, but others might be more bothered by this. The few times Echo resorted to VN gimmicks like identical choices, etc didn't come off as forced or trendy (trust me, these gimmicks get old fast, they've been used for decades) The good thing is that there is an overall sense of weight to the world.

Echo succeeds because it builds suspense and creates a strong mysterious air with how the text develops the history of Echo and the characters, and also how it treats the "unknown" and how this "unknown" affects the characters. All of this development serves as context for the excellent in-depth character psychology. It succeeds because who the characters are, how they act, and what they have gone through is purposeful and realistic; the writer displays genuine understanding of the psychology of the (mostly) queer characters they have created. Finally it succeeds because of how it uses the VN medium to its advantage to stage memorable scenes that can reach you on an emotional level. It has big and small moments that feel profoundly meaningful. Echo can be quite sad, and legitimately moving at times. A highly recommended OELVN. It is recommended if you enjoy, for example, the game Silent Hill (for its usage of metaphors and atmosphere) or the movie Gummo (for its bizarre yet raw, compassionate depiction of lowlifes in rural america) or if you like "lighter" (not so much focus on edge and shock factor) denpa story, with a focus on friendships, character story, and "setting development" (such as, Higurashi). Recommended route order: Carl, Leo, Jenna, TJ, Flynn. Make sure to do Flynn last and TJ before Flynn for the scenario to flow well. The order of the other 3 routes is comparatively unimportant.
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This Game Is Free Because You Pay For It With Your Mental Health
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breakdownbbe 2022-06-03T02:56:00Z
2022-06-03T02:56:00Z
4.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
When my boyfriend and I beat Omori, I commented to him that it felt like "babbe's first depressing/disturbing game." Echo was the opposite. It mostly takes place in a shitty eponymous desert town somewhere in the Southwestern United States. It follows a River Otter, named Chase, who reconnects with his old friend group after three years of them being separated. But...they have a lot of baggage, for different reasons, some shared, some individual, much of which threatens to tear the group apart. And beyond that, Echo (the town) itself has a lot of horrible secrets which begin to bubble up over the differing routes, eventually solidifying into things and events which are terrifying, brutal, and incomprehensible.

This game was a labyrinth of horror, madness, and trauma, anchored by some of the most human, sympathetic, deeply flawed characters I've ever seen. You have Jenna, an intelligent and driven fennec fox who left Echo to escape her abusive home, but also seems to hold herself above the town and her friends. You have Leo the wolf, the protector of the group & Chase's ex, who exhibits...obsessive tendencies, but maybe not without reason. Carl, a mellow, agreeable ram, by far the most well-off of the group, depends on cannabis to avoid any confrontation or conflict whatsoever, whether internal or external. TJ, a lynx, has serious problems standing up for himself (except when his Christian wet blanket ass gets huffy and indignant about things like cursing), but in a way is the most innocent and well-meaning of the entire group. Flynn, a gila lizard (and my favorite character), is volatile, angry, unpredictable, and utterly consumed by a traumatic event from the friend group's past, but some suspicions he holds might not be unfounded, and he genuinely does care about each member of the group (I strongly believe he was intended as a portrayal of BPD). Chase seems like a typical protagonist at first, but over time the reader begins to realize he may be no more reliable than anyone else (as a narrator, as a friend, or as a lover). Most of the side characters were surprisingly fleshed out, as well (Kudzu, a stoic raccoon with a mysterious past, and Micah, a delinquent, street-smart bat were especially well-written). Almost everyone feels like a living, breathing person.

The storytelling plays to the strengths of the visual novel format, delivering moments which simply could not be pulled off in any other medium in the same way Watchmen really only works as a comic, or Catch-22 only really works as a novel. The game easily ranks with Lisa, Bloodborne, or Umineko as one of the most visceral "descents into madness" games I've ever played, truly a game where you feel your sanity slipping away along with the characters until it's impossible to even begin to orient yourself to reality. Rokkenjima, Olathe, Yharnam; Echo is right there for one of the most memorable settings I've ever experienced in a video game. And beyond that, the writing is just rock-solid: the fundamentals of strong drama are conflicts and consequences, and this game's authors exhibit a profound understanding of how to write and engineer both.

I think the (main) theme of this game was how difficult it is for individuals, groups, or entire populations to escape the negative consequences of events from the past, whether on a scale of days, months, years, decades, or even centuries. I'm not exaggerating when I say this was probably the most emotionally taxing game I've ever experienced; only Lisa and Umineko could really equal it. Definitely not a game I would recommend to anyone who struggles with rough themes of an adult nature. That being said, the game isn't an endless nightmare like I probably made it sound; there are countless moments that are genuinely touching, humorous, or even romantic.

The soundtrack was beautiful, and much (almost all?) of it was licensed for free from public databases. I can't speak highly enough of the sound design. The sound effects were detailed and immersive: trains in the distance, wind whistling in the mountains, the hum of a car engine. Even simple actions like tossing a set of car keys onto a bed or opening a shower door came with sound effects that added so much atmosphere and visualization to the experience. The developers also play with the sound design in unexpected ways, especially with regards to the usage of silence. I was a big fan of the digitized photograph backgrounds, and the sprites and splash pages were very solid. For a free game, I could not be more impressed by the production values.

One thing I want to make clear about this game was that if anyone calls it a "porn game," they're absolutely full of shit. There are about half a dozen scenes I'd describe as sexually explicit, but they're absolutely not pornographic, in my opinion anyway. Relationships can be pursued with some of the characters, but I wouldn't describe it as a dating sim, at all, either. There are no explicit sprites or splash pages, that I can recall anyway.

One of my favorite things about the game was that it has the potential for the authors to take the story as deep as they want. There's enough background and potential setup in Echo to support, Christ, probably three or four more games set in the universe, at least. I'm especially curious to learn more about the town from roughly the 1950s-1980s (I'm not certain on the exact timelines and date approximations of certain events). I started the only sequel (thus far) today, called Arches, and the writing quality seems just as strong thus far, while the production values have only increased. I honestly can't believe these games are free; the creators have a patreon and I hope they're making fat bank. They deserve it.
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Echo is a game/story that's very much About Things and has Themes and Ideas and Symbolism in a very literary sense, and that makes it pretty difficult to discuss succinctly. It follows Chase, a young gay otter/man, returning to his hometown Echo in the Arizona Desert for spring break and deciding to reunite with his group of friends for the first time in three years. The town has had periodic waves of violent mass hysteria and Chase, a journalism student, wants to produce a newsreel on the first one that happened about 150 years previously. In each route, with one important exception, the people of the town (including Chase and his friends) eventually fall into this trap and the story veers into psychological horror and tragedy from the more slice-of-life dating-sim setup established in the first half.

More than anything else, the element that really shines in the writing is the characters and their interactions. This is very much a character-driven drama, and all of the main six members of the cast get really fleshed out personalities, and the reader gets an absolute ton of material regarding their pasts, motivations, tensions, strengths and weaknesses, etc. Forgive the pun, but they're incredibly human; all of them feel like people who can actually exist, which is something I don't find enough in video game narratives. I can unironically say that the characters and the explorations of their psychologies are on a par with Neon Genesis Evangelion or Crime and Punishment and Demons by Dostoyevsky (who's my favorite author. I know it's pretentious as all hell to namedrop capital L Literature but these really are the only other stories that have had this kind of effect on me and have made me think about them so much after finishing them). It's a story that truly improves both on re-reading and the more you think about it (although do not spoil yourself on the plot if you can). The plot is willing to go places and portray things that are frustratingly rare and to make each one of the characters truly, deeply morally ambiguous as opposed to 'flawed but still fundamentally good,' which seems irritatingly common in a lot of media today. For example, Leo (Chase's ex boyfriend and the self-appointed leader of the group) is shown to live an utterly abject and pathetic life, constantly trying to restore a past that can and will never come back, but it never comes across as judgmental or cruel. Stories like those in Omori or (to a lesser extent) Undertale have frustrated me because, although they cover some very dark and heavy topics, they generally fail to bring that sense of gravity to the rest of the story, which denies them the emotional weight they should have (Or perhaps, I'm frustrated that stories that are 90% inane twee bullshit which randomly shift to really dark topics for the remaining 10% are often treated as like the absolute pinnacle of storytelling). I can say that Echo never blueballs you like that. There are plenty of scenes that have a comedic or lighthearted tone, but never are the real repercussions of everyone's actions and problems ignored or written off. The integration of these parts of the story is very good, like in LISA: The Painful; the comic parts at no point compromise the grounded realism of the setting or the characters. There are 8 main endings, 5 of which are unambiguously bad, and even the good ones are bittersweet at best. Just like real life, there are no simple solutions for the traumas and problems you have.

The other really great thing that elevates this story is how much the authors are aware of their audience and their audience's expectations. In particular, they kind of hate their audience and actively punish them for every kind of easy-fix or golden ending they may want. This game is very much not fanservice; I mean that both in the sense that even the more explicit scenes and CG's are definitely not made to be erotic (basically every explicit scene immediately follows, immediately precedes, or takes place during one of the horror sequences), but also in that it knows what its audience wants (what its gay furry audience wants, at least) and denies it to them on almost every level. This is a major spoiler, so please do not read it if you are at all interested in this game: a good example of this is Leo's route. The game knows that a lot of gay furries will be completely smitten with Leo the moment he appears on the screen (I fell into this category) so his route is almost entirely about how deeply unhealthy his relationship with Chase was and would be if they started dating again, and if you choose to try to stay with him at the end you literally die. All throughout the game he can be incredibly possessive, manipulative, and violent, but it's not just sadness/abuse porn; he's also shown to have a powerful sense of duty towards his friends and does deeply care about them, just that he expresses that in quite unhealthy ways a lot of the time. We also get a ton of material from his past that informs why he is the way he is, giving a really great three-dimensional look into his personality. Another example of this is with TJ. A lot of the gay furry audience (and probably even a lot of normal gay people) would probably see the uwu cute soft-spoken sensitive twink and want to protect him from Flynn's antagonism, and his whole route is about how incredibly unhealthy, damaging, and even downright evil to Chase, TJ, and Flynn that thought process is, again leading to death. A final, funnier, example is that of the five potential love interests, Jenna is the only one Chase can end up in a long-term relationship with at the end of the game, which is significant given that the target audience is homosexual men (this is one of the reasons there's an in-joke among the fans that the moral of the story is that being gay is wrong). I can't think of another narrative that is quite this antagonistic towards its target audience's expectations and desires.

One thing that I actually appreciate about this story is that it's generally not very subtle. For example, there's a scene in the prologue where Leo basically just explains the symbolism of the anchor bracelets to Chase/the reader which could come across as too blunt but, to me at least, it serves as a good illustration of Leo's character (his lack of subtlety is definitely one of the contributing features to why his relationship with Chase dissolved). The main theme of the story is about how nostalgia, or generally being stuck in the past, can be extremely damaging on personal, romantic, political, economic, and cultural levels, and this is made clear in the literal opening lines, which introduce the 'running in circles' motif that comes up a lot. Leo wants to restart his relationship with Chase (and reclaim his past as a popular football start in high school in general), Flynn can't get over Syd's death, TJ is also haunted by that (albeit more subtly), Chase and Carl don't really know how to move forward in life and are haunted by their pasts, and Jenna tries to prevent her past from having any influence on her, not letting her mental wounds heal properly. This is obviously something that applies to a lot of people, and is very independent from the gay furry backdrop. The second biggest theme is much more tied to homosexuality; it's an exploration of the effects of small town homophobia for young gay men in rural areas. This is clearest with Brian, who is easily in my top 5 villains in any piece of narrative media. He shows basically every negative stereotype about gay men: he has an unnaturally high pitched voice, he's a hard drug user, he has weird and violent fetishes, he preys on much younger men at gay bars, he had no father figure as a child, etc. His conversations with Chase in Leo's route are incredibly on point thematically, some of the absolutely best scenes in the game.

The gay furry backdrop and how important it is to the story definitely needs to be discussed. This is absolutely not a pornographic game; there are a handful of scenes that describe sexual activity, but most of them cut to black before anything particularly saucy happens, and like I said above they are really not intended to be erotic (the few times things seem like they might be erotic, like Wednesday in Leo's route, they suddenly shift to the horror, and it actually works very well and doesn't feel like some kind of awkward tonal shift). The most explicit the sprites or the CG's ever get is just having the characters in their underwear or kissing, the only NSFW stuff is in the text. The importance of being gay comes out much more in the themes of the story, like I said above. As for the furry-ness, that's much less important and could easily be removed without changing anything important about the plot, the characters, or the themes. Occasionally the characters' animal traits are mentioned (like Chase having stumpy little legs as an otter) but they really don't inform the plot a whole lot. The most they matter to the plot is that Sydney was also an otter, so TJ's explanation that he just drowned is even more obviously untrue once you learn that, but that detail isn't revealed until midway through Flynn's route. The biggest significance is just that the writing is very specifically denying its gay furry audience's desires, so you may not pick up on that as much if you don't fall into that category. Some people really hate furries for whatever reason and can't stand looking at them, but if you don't have that block, then you should be able to read this just fine.

How well the horror in the game will affect you will also probably be very subjective. I don't really get scared by horror stories very easily, but the mine sequence in Leo's route triggered my claustrophobia hard. There's one pesudo-jumpscare in Jenna's route that seems to have gotten a lot of people as well. Others may disagree, but I actually really appreciate a lot of the mechanics of the supernatural elements basically being either spoon-fed or directly explained to the reader; you're given in-universe reasons to contextualize why the point of view occasionally changes, why the player can make decisions for Chase, why certain routes have no meaningful choices, etc. I don't hate lore speculation quite as much as some other people, but in a story like this trying to figure out the mechanics of the supernatural elements would be completely missing the point; thank god MatPat will never touch this game. The closest to a true overall villain is just the town itself, particularly the mine. Now I am a huge sucker for genius loci type evil forces, non-anthropomorphic (ba dum pssh) primordial evil entities that are completely inexplicable and beyond human understanding, so naturally this one really appealed to me, and like the one in Night in the Woods it has obvious thematic parallels with how living in a dying rural town negatively affects young people. I really loved
that there is actually very little time spent in the mine; its evil influence emanates out from it in a really cool way. The horror (and narrative in general) of this game are also refreshingly non-meta. I'm purely talking out of my ass on this, but going meta seems to have been really popular in the past decade and for me at least it gets old really fucking quick. There are a few minor nods to the fourth wall (Flynn's takedown of Chase right before the route select is basically telling Chase he's a bland self-insert dating sim protagonist) but there's never any moments where it breaks completely.


If I gave ratings to each route, they'd be Leo: 5+, TJ: 5+, Flynn: 5, Jenna: 3.5, Carl: 2.5, which would put my overall rating at about 4.2/5, but that would feel dishonest given how much I like this story in gestalt. For example, Leo's good ending epilogue is up there with Ivan Karamazov's arguments with Satan in my list of the best, most emotionally affecting scenes in any written narrative I've ever read (both are the most I've teared up over a piece of written fiction as an adult), but there are plenty of problems with Echo, both as a game and as a narrative. The first, most obvious, and most inconsequential is the production value, which is generally pretty low (to be fair, this game is entirely free). There's like 15 CG's total for a ~30 hour game, which is very low (both Arches and Adastra have way more despite being a fraction of the length), and there are quite a few typos, which certainly don't ruin the experience but break immersion a bit. A lot of the music is royalty-free stuff and it generally actually works very well, although a few of the tracks are a bit corny. The quality of the CG's and the sprites, however, is all really great (I particularly like the almost impressionistic look of some of the CG's). The second big problem, and one that actually matters, is the pacing. This game was written over a period of 6 years by two separate writers, and it shows. The introduction is pretty slow and saccharine (a lot of it sets up stuff that does get paid off, but it still could be whittled down to half its length easily) and Carl's route, the first one finished, has pretty bad pacing for a lot of it. As if 'gay furry VN that's actually a really intense character drama horror tragedy' wasn't a tough enough sell, it takes at least 3 hours for anything really interesting to happen. A lot of the slice of life type material is important for the character development, but it still can be pretty dull. There's probably an argument to be made that it falls under the 'denying your audience's expectations' thing by setting up a really corny Morenatsu. [漏れなつ。]-esque dating sim for lonely horny furries that transitions into a horror tragedy, but it mostly reads as the writers taking a while to figure out the real identity of the game; it's worth noting that the only time when the story does feel like it's doing fanservice for its audience is the first half of Carl's route (even then, the most explicit it gets is a CG showing Carl's stomach). This is one of the bigger reasons why Carl is my least favorite character of the main six. There also some minor plot contrivances (any time a characters goes offscreen to pee, something bad will happen), some ham-fisted metaphors (Brian sewing Chase and Leo together, like c'mon man) but those are almost inevitable and really don't matter very much.

If you are interested in this game but are neither gay nor furry, I'd actually recommend playing Arches first. It's 5 hours maximum, starts immediately with the action, has no real sexual or erotic content (the most you get is a gay kiss described in the text), and explores the same setting and some of the same characters and themes. If you want to check out this game but only want to do one route, then do TJ's. It's the shortest, has no sexual or erotic content, and is really tight thematically, especially the latter half; when you finish it you can see why people have had the reaction to this game that they have had. If you are gay or a furry or both then I don't imagine there needs to be a lot of incentive (between Leo, Carl, Flynn, and TJ, almost every male body type is represented).

TL;DR
Incredibly in depth characters who feel very realistic and developed in basically every element of their designs; their pasts with each other, current motivations and desires, interactions with others, etc. The plot and themes are sort of like Night in the Woods meets OMORI as a gay VN; dealing with the repercussions of childhood tragedies, the effects of nostalgia in a dying mining town, and the experience of homophobia in rural America. It's definitely a tough sell to people outside its very niche target audience, but if you can look past the furry setting it's incredibly rewarding.
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dzhakh 2022-06-14T14:46:10Z
2022-06-14T14:46:10Z
5.0
1
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I should probably mention that this game tracks my life bizarrely closely in a lot of aspects, and that's definitely a huge reason why it affected me so much. I played it first as a young gay man returning to his hometown that I don't really like being in trying to get my old group of high school friends back together, one of my friends died very abruptly when we were kids and like Syd he could be an asshole, so our reactions to his death were all fairly complicated, I'm generally a very nostalgic and backwards-looking person like Leo, and like I said above I adore genius loci evil entities. I played TJ's route a day after hiking through Yosemite with a friend I hadn't seen in 18 months and Carl's route stoned as hell in my parents' big, creaky house alone while they were away on vacation. This all certainly contributed to the slightly surreal feeling I had while first playing.
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jesus fucking christ.
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Cursed_Judge 2023-11-12T19:20:24Z
2023-11-12T19:20:24Z
5.0
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Echo can be a hard sell if you're outside a certain demographic (gay furry men) but it's one of the few pieces of media out there that really stuck itself to my brain. The way it chooses to introduce lore about the town of Echo and the main cast's history together is genuinely captivating. I can admit that there are some weak points, (certain characters, routes, and inconsistencies) but when this game hits, it really hits. This game is emotionally resonant while also being emotionally disturbing at the same time.

So, if you're in that certain demographic, this VN will be for you. If you're not, give it a try.
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stormycalligo 2023-10-06T22:05:39Z
2023-10-06T22:05:39Z
5.0
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MordoGoodIGuess Echo 2024-05-29T21:43:18Z
2024-05-29T21:43:18Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
TinyTimTam Echo 2024-05-25T08:12:01Z
2024-05-25T08:12:01Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
anitahegerland Echo 2024-05-22T20:36:57Z
2024-05-22T20:36:57Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
brian211211 Echo 2024-05-21T10:45:25Z
2024-05-21T10:45:25Z
1.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
lovefades Echo 2024-05-14T04:54:19Z
2024-05-14T04:54:19Z
0.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
seven7gbpits Echo 2024-05-11T05:09:13Z
2024-05-11T05:09:13Z
5.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
gardenofdeIete Echo 2024-05-06T17:48:17Z
2024-05-06T17:48:17Z
4.5
1
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
charredwind Echo 2024-05-03T14:27:14Z
2024-05-03T14:27:14Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
JoeyTheBigJJojo Echo 2024-04-29T04:53:35Z
2024-04-29T04:53:35Z
3.5
1
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
thomasstc Echo 2024-04-26T21:28:14Z
2024-04-26T21:28:14Z
5.0
1
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
FirstMate Echo 2024-04-23T05:41:20Z
2024-04-23T05:41:20Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Imposterable Echo 2024-04-20T23:48:23Z
2024-04-20T23:48:23Z
0.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Player modes
Single-player
Early access date
14 aug 2015
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  • Previous comments (231) Loading...
  • calys 2024-04-02 19:29:57.479303+00
    it's dropping :( i'm not a gamer and don't play visual novels, but this game was really awesome and makes me wanna explore both. i have a lot of issues with it, but i wouldn't have discovered this if it wasn't charting so high, and i'm very glad it did
    reply
    • dzhakh 2024-04-07 16:30:48.257859+00
      It'll probably bounce up and down a lot, it's not really worth getting too invested in (although I just want it to always be above Omori because I'm extremely petty)
    • calys 2024-04-18 23:13:39.096673+00
      yea it doesn't literally matter (and the current rank of #99 is objectively very good) but i feel like complaining anyways
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  • hgghv 2024-04-03 21:28:24.412497+00
    happy birthday goat
    reply
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  • Poocher 2024-04-09 18:14:34.537824+00
    How is this game so high in the charts when it has such a low amount of ratings and it's score is lower than that of any others with similar chart placement. Not commenting on the game's quality or anything since I haven't played but it's just confusing.
    reply
    • BoreCanal 2024-04-10 04:20:14.279009+00
      Many of them have a perfect score of 10, which will keep them at the top of the chart.
    • hgghv 2024-04-10 06:09:29.693245+00
      check the distribution. chart favors games with lots of perfect scores, even if the avg is lower. helps games like this that are gonna be inevitably divisive due to their nature.
    • dzhakh 2024-04-10 22:01:45.728641+00
      I think glitchwave also deweights super low ratings when most of the others are really positive when it comes to the chart placement, or at least i've seen someone say that before. when the first few 0.5s were added to this, it didn't really affect the placement much
    • tdstr 2024-04-13 01:53:53.43857+00
      yeah its got pretty much all the same reasons as umineko. lots of perfect 5s (some of which seem to get deweighted in the average but not the placement) and a handful of 0.5s with the opposite going on.

      not really sure how the 3.9 is being calculated anyways, manually computing it in excel gives me 4.24 which makes its placement make much more sense. obviously some things are being deweighted and some aren't but it's hard to say which
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  • youarefuckingcrazy 2024-04-18 00:38:28.891167+00
    if someone paypals me 50 bucks i will play all routes of this in full
    reply
    • dzhakh 2024-04-18 13:10:56.642516+00
      lo, I'd be interested in your take on this game given how much you dislike Omori and how much two of the routes, Flynn and TJ, cover similar ground (dealing with the sudden death of your friend as a kid), but like it's actually interested in interrogating the consequences of that and to maintain a sense of grounded realism in the setting even when stuff gets supernatural
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  • gr3ycloak 2024-05-14 15:58:38.35101+00
    the disco elysium of furry
    reply
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  • Senchi3 2024-05-27 16:30:05.763839+00
    Absolutely do not play Carl's route first it is significantly worse than the rest of the game and it almost made me drop it lol
    reply
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