ECHO: Secrets of the Lost Cavern
First posted on 10 April 2010. Last updated on 10 April 2010.
Echo: Secrets of the Lost Cavern (also known as Secret of the Lost Cavern) is a point-and-click adventure game released in 2005 by Kheops Studio. The game offers an original premise, interesting scenarios, pretty graphics, clever puzzles, and plenty of real-life history. Overall, I recommend this game without hesitation to any adventure gamer who loves ancient history and first-person adventuring.
The game puts the player in the role of a young cave dweller named Arok, who has become trapped in a cave by a vicious saber tooth tiger. After discovering and recognizing some paintings in the cave, Arok decides to seek out the paintings' artist Klem and become a painter himself. Along the way, Arok will learn about the spiritual nature of cave painting as well as other ancient handicrafts such as the art of making stone tools. The game supplements the historical material with a small encyclopedia whose pages fill in as Arok progresses in the game. This information provides context to much of the back-story and is quite educational in itself. The game is set in the Paleolithic period, commonly known as the "old stone age". Humanity has not yet established its dominance over other animals, and a major part of day to day life is focused on survival. However, the game portrays Paleolithic people (Cro-Magnon) as eminently resourceful and intelligent, capable of making sophisticated tools and even more sophisticated art.
In the game, Arok will meet a trio of companions or travelers as he makes his way through the wilderness. These people help Arok by giving him objects, teaching him crafts, or offering him insights into cave painting. The voice acting is good, though you may be surprised by how well educated and eloquent these cave dwellers sound in this game—they are not the stereotypical cavemen! Dialog options are very basic: you simply click all available options to get information or progress in the game. The characters remind me of museum curators dressed up in costumes, though it is still fun to meet them and hear what they have to say. It is also fun to think about what life must have been like for Arok and his people.
The game's production values are quite good, with detailed graphics and smooth animation. The music features many period instruments and fits the game perfectly. The interface is simple and intuitive: simply click where you want to go (the mouse pointer changes depending on what action can be performed at a given location). The only downside is that all the panning around can be quite disorienting, though not enough to impact the gameplay. Saving and restoring games is a snap.
The game's puzzles fall into 2 major types: object manipulation and logic puzzles. Most of the challenge comes from carefully scanning each area to find small objects, such as bits of string, plants, or rocks, that are needed for the various puzzles. It is usually easy to tell which objects can be manipulated and which are purely decorative. These puzzles are fun, but not nearly as original as those puzzles based on the cave paintings. For those puzzles, Arok has to figure out how to interact with several paintings sprinkled throughout the game, which magically come alive when he discovers their secret. The paintings are more than just decorations, as they control spirits whose help Arok must secure to win the game. The only difficult puzzle in the game is a timed puzzle, which is made more difficult if you do not realize initially that it is time based. The rest of the puzzles are readily solvable, though some require careful notes and deductive reasoning.
Overall, Echo: Secrets of the Lost Cavern is a great game that is bound to please fans of first-person adventures. This is particularly true if you enjoy games that teach as well as entertain. In fact, I can easily see this game being sold by museums of ancient history or played in schools. However, do not be turned away by the game's potential educational values—they are mostly optional and only there for those who desire to learn.