I had a very close friend in my childhood through to my teens, she got me through thick and thin, she was always someone to rely on. This friend was my pet cat, Thelma.
She may have been out for a day or two, but she always made sure she came back home to let me know she was fine – I knew she had my back. We went on adventures together, pretending that the spare room, which at one point was filled with a broken ship, was an alien land.
Unfortunately, my mother went through a divorce – which resulted in us moving out and giving up Thelma to a new home as we crowded into my grandfather’s house. The following years after that were tough, before I had my trusty companion, now I was alone. Thelma would have died by now, all I can hope for is that she was happy in her new home and that she went peacefully – but that’s something I’ll never know, and will never know. I never got to say goodbye properly. I never got closure.
Past Blast: Echo Night: Beyond
Ok, so. Echo Night: Beyond may sound like a performance but it’s a first-person survival horror adventure game – if released today it would simply be called a Walking Sim. It was developed by From Software (wooooh!) and was published in Europe by Indie Games Production for the PlayStation 2 in 2005.
The game starts you off waking up on a shuttle that has crash landed into a Luna Space station. You were on a trip with your Fiancée who has now disappeared when you regained consciousness. There’s a ring left on the seat next to you and a note opposite the seat saying, ‘Come to The Facility’. It’s from here you explore the space station and the Luna surface to find your loved one.
You quickly realize you are not the only one on this space station as you come across several ghosts who are waiting in purgatory – waiting to pass over. You communicate with these ghosts who will set you tasks in the form of fetch quests – doing this sets their spirit free.
The first spirit you set free warns you to stay clear of the fog: the base has a mysterious fog that makes the ghosts chase you, which then raises your heart rate until it hits a certain point… and then you die. It’s your job to clean the fog by finding the air conditioner terminal to clear it. This stops the ghosts being feral.
As I mentioned, you don’t have a typical health bar as it’s your heart rate instead. Ghosts make the rate go up, as well as running, and the higher it goes the less you can see. This is a strange mechanic because when you see a ghost you heart rate goes up, so you run away, that makes your heart rate go faster and thus diminishes your visibility… Yeah.
You are not that hopeless though, as you have Monitor Rooms that act as save rooms. You can also use the consoles to see through various cameras, so you can see where the ghosts and items are before you enter.
Visually, the game has that basic PlayStation 2 3D environment, but there some nice features like the occasional flickering light or various signs around the space station. There is a great sense of depth too, as corridors look like you are staring into a black hole – because they are that dark.
The sense of isolation is an ode to the audio though, being accompanied by your breathing, footsteps and the faint echoing voices of the dead repeating the same sentence – due to hardware limitations, but here it gives an unsettling and haunting feeling to the game. The main theme is a rendition of ‘Moonlight Sonata’, but with electronic instruments and a female vocal chorus that captures the game’s slow-paced and mournful tone.
So, would I recommend Echo Night: Beyond?
It’s not for everyone. The game’s pace is that slow, it’s drooling all over itself. There are no boss fights and no way of arming yourself; adventure game fans would appreciate it, but don’t worry, there aren’t any bizarre puzzles – like making a fake key out of soap and plaster.
At times Echo Night: Beyond is a beautiful experience because what it gets right, it really gets right. Like the brief encounters with the ghosts, you really get a sense of their personalities and why they are stuck in purgatory. There is a section in which you find a ghost looking at his dead body, remembering he was left alone and all he wanted was to be found; it’s a brief moment, but with the believable voice acting the moment really sticks with you and makes you feel sorry for the character.
The game is something you experience, not play. You experience these little beautiful moments, moments of Sorrow met with moments of Hope as you help these lost souls finally get some closure.
After playing Echo Night: Beyond it got me thinking about the afterlife, it gave me hope too; the hope in seeing my granddad again and having a conversation about The Beatles, the hope in seeing my grandma so I can show her some Krautrock, the hope in seeing my friend Jamie to reminisce about times in the flat, and the hope of seeing Thelma again, to give her a big fuss and pretend we were in that spacecraft again.
I take comfort in that, don’t you?