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Echoes: The Microchip

In a distant future where the world lies in ruins, you can hear pieces of the past when interacting with objects around you. When you stumble upon objects from a world long gone, it’s up to you to piece together the story behind the fall of humanity.

Published by Ravensburger, The Microchip is part of their Echoes line, an audio mystery series. The game is designed for 1-6 players and the game box gives a playtime of 60 minutes.

Gameplay

You will need the Echoes app to play the game. There are six chapter tiles and 18 item cards. Each chapter and item card has a picture of something on it. You sort out the nine item cards with a small star on their backs and set them aside and begin the game with the other nine all face-up on the table.

Players start by playing the game’s opening prologue audio which sets the stage for the story. They will then use the app to either scan the image on a card or tile or type in its unique three-digit code depending on which feature your phone supports (we typed in the codes and did not find this overly irksome). The app will then play a brief audio clip associated with the image you scanned. The goal is to figure out the story by categorizing the right cards with the right chapter tiles, by deducing which bits of audio go together. Each chapter tile has three cards associated with it. You must figure out which ones.

Once you think you have correctly categorized all nine of the starting item cards, you take the other nine that you set aside at the start and do the same for them.

When you think you have all three item cards for a chapter, you go to the solve feature on the app and scan the chapter you are solving and the three item cards in the order you think they go in. If you are correct, the app will play you the audio from the chapter, both the audio from the chapter tile and the item cards, as well as additional audio to give further detail for the story. If even one of the items does not belong in that chapter or is in the wrong order, the app will tell you how many cards belong with that chapter (but not if they are in the correct order). You can adjust the difficulty on the app or ask for a hint, and it will explicitly state which cards are correct and/or which ones are in the right order.

Once you have correctly placed all 18 item cards with all six chapter tiles, you then have to use the app to place the chapter tiles in the correct order within the story. If you are incorrect, it will tell you how many are in the incorrect order, and you must try again. When you get it in the correct order, you unlock the game’s epilogue audio that wraps up the story.

Echoes: The Microchip Components

Review

The Echoes line is such a unique type of puzzle. It’s different from any of the other mystery-style games or puzzle games that depend on an app, and there is something fascinating about hearing these little snippets of audio and slowly piecing them together and building up the story bit by bit. It does feel satisfying when a piece of audio that has confused you finally makes sense and you realize where it fits into the big picture.

Setup is so fast. You put out the cards, you sort out which ones to start with, set out the chapter tiles, and you’re ready to play. The rules are quite easy to learn, and you can be playing in under five minutes. We liked the artwork in the game and the slightly larger size of the cards and tiles. The story was interesting and we enjoyed putting it together. You can also pass this game along once you’re done, as no components are destroyed or altered during the game.

Obviously, the game is very app-dependent, and if you don’t like that, this probably isn’t the game for you. We found the app to work quite well, however. Subtitles might have helped, and certainly would have made the game more accessible, but we didn’t encounter any issues. It’s a very clever feature that once you complete a chapter, the app plays the whole chapter back to you with some added audio to flesh it out even further. This feels both like a reward for having solved the chapter, as well as a bonus with clues to help you deduce where the chapter falls in the overall story. We also appreciated that you can adjust the difficulty on the app, even if we didn’t end up using this feature.

It is a pretty easy game. We finished it in 47 minutes and most of that time was listening to the different audio clips. There is also a certain process of elimination that helps the game along. You might have a few clips that are more difficult to deduce where they belong, but as you sort out the easier ones, since each chapter has a set number of cards with it, you can figure out where the others go based on where there is space left. The game does offer an extra difficulty mode in which you start with all the cards on the table right away, and I can see one or two cards where that would have raised extra questions about where certain cards might fall, but I don’t think would have had a massive impact on the overall difficulty.

Echoes works best with a smaller group, since there’s not that steep a difficulty curve and players are probably more likely to feel left out with more people. In fact, Echoes would make an excellent solo or date night game.

A unique concept and a nice twist on the mystery game genre, we enjoyed our time with Echoes: The Microchip. The game system is quite interesting. A bit more difficulty would have been appreciated, but we had a lot of fun regardless, and would play more games in this line.

Pros: Unique mechanics, can be passed along once you’re finished playing, satisfying to piece the story together

Cons: Not very challenging, no subtitles on the app

Disclosure: we received a complimentary review copy of this game.