the artistry and psychology of gaming




Welcome to Gaming on the House; don’t look down and and mind your step! Each week, we’ll be climbing the rooftops of the gaming industry to seek out great experiences that everyone can track down and play, and the best part is they’ll all be free! That’s right; FREE! Gratis. Comp’d. Unbound. Unrestricted. Zero-down. On the House!… we talk about free games here, is my point.

Many may be surprised at how many fantastic games are really out there that everyone can legally enjoy with no monetary commitment. Taking together all the flash and browser games, freeware downloads from the independent scene, speed programming archives, free-to-play business modules, and even promotional re-releases from big name publishers, there’s a never ending supply of great games new and old waiting to be played, and it’s our goal to play them all! So, if you’re strapped for cash or just waiting around for that next big release to hit retail, why not give these games a try? After all, they’re free; what have you got to lose!

This week, gaming on the house revisits an old classic from the 70’s in a new light… a neon light, to be exact


Disco is dead, by the way

Genre: Asteroids clone
Link to Game:
Game Info: Released as freeware in 2007 by Binary Zoo Studios, and upgraded  to Echoes+ on Xbox LIVE in 2009.

I think I speak for most everyone on Earth when I say that I’d like to remain as far away from real-life asteroids as possible, however the same can’t be said for Asteroids the game. Atari’s classic vector release first collided with the arcade scene in 1979, and has gone on to be one of the most successful and influential titles in history, causing wave after wave of casual imitators and clones. I’ve played lots of them over the years, and end up enjoying most, primarily due to how strong the game play of the original holds up. A free roaming ship with hazards flying at you in all directions is so perfect a gaming concept that it’s easy to play again and again without complaints. Sure, being a clone game isn’t always the best label to be assigned to a game, but if it’s still fun, I don’t see what the problem is.

Echoes is totally an Asteroids clone. Nothing wrong with that. Frankly, it’s an Asteroids clone on steroids with the action of 10 Asteroids clones, all played at once, with a really groovy vibe behind it all. The game really amps up the action and design on all fronts over the original with more objects, more colors (It took a deluxe version of Asteroids to even have 1 color!), and some eye-catching motion blur to further add to the trip. It’s able to get away with it’s crazy over-complex atmosphere and visuals, as the game also functions under the same simplistic guidelines of old. The game carries with it only three instructions, which will be repeated here in full:

10 – Shoot Stuff
20 – Die
30 – Go to 10

And that is that. Alright, see you guys next week!

Alright, well this isn’t so bad…

Ok, I guess I’ll hang around a little while longer. A few fun things worth pointing out are what (besides the obvious visual upgrade) does separate Echoes from Asteroids (and from Geometry Wars for that matter, as the similarities between the two games are also fairly noticaeble). Maybe the best upgrade is that the control scheme is altered to allow considerably faster gameplay. The ship no longer moves or accelerates with the push of a button, but zips along the screen with the mouse. Bullets are automatically locked in one direction to allow for strafing, and can be quick-turned in cardinal directions,however right clicking the mouse will allow for bullets to fire in the direction you are moving in. This amount of speedy control allows for some evasive and strategic game play that the original games could only dream of, which is a good thing because the game throws everything but an asteroid made up of kitchen sinks at you not long after you start.

Plus, if the default control scheme isn’t to your liking, the way the game controls and presents itself is also fully customizable, including custom inputs, movement speed, HUD display, the music that plays, screen resolution, and that somewhat trance-inducing motion blur. While the game is really something with as many different moving components at once, it’s really a great feature to allow players to experience the game in the way they want to. Sure, you could swap out the game’s techno tunes to blare some Kool & the Gang to fit in with all those neon lights, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

Holy crap, call Bruce Willis!!!!

Further adding some variety to the game are the inclusion of power-ups, simple in function but effective nonetheless. You have your weapon power-ups that re-shape and add to your own bullet patterns, Energy power-ups that add to your life meter (dynamically displayed as the ring shown around your ship), and bomb power-ups that send out a ring of bullets in all directions hitting most everything nearby.

Throw in some general achievements and an addicting bonus game called Crack (hey, sometimes jokes write themselves), and you have an excellent release that would make a fortune in quarters for its exciting arcade play, but you can have the whole package for free. Awesome.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *