Ultra Ultra's Echo doesn't start off well, as the first hour or so is arduous, slow-moving, even borderline boring, which is pretty surprising, as the game opens and kicks off quite suddenly, in the middle of a conversation in fact. Two characters are interacting and conversing, without any setup or introduction, and that conversation goes straight over our head as a result. They're discussing their upcoming mission, and are referring blatantly to past events, events we know nothing about; this is more than just in medias res.
One of the these characters, En, is a young pilgrim with ashen hair and a strong spirit to boot, and the other is a formless, unnamed machine intelligence. A long journey has finally come to a close at their destination across the stars - a mysterious planet with an extensive subterranean network, which carries the cryptic name "The Palace", presumably built for but not by humans. What secrets are hiding within the bowels of this impressive construct? It took both self-discipline and a good amount of patience for us to find out.
The game's indecipherable and dull opening is sadly symptomatic for the remainder of the experience. There are long sections, for instance, where the player character's already slow-moving speed is reduced by half, so the two characters can exchange their stilted dialogue.
Maybe it would seem inappropriate to delve deeper into the narrative, without even having introduced the rest of the game's various components. The story itself is quite interesting, and contains well-known elements like space travel, life, death, identity, the clash with ghosts of the past - what's here could've easily been lifted from a Stanislaw Lem or Philip K. Dick novel. On paper, it must've looked really good, and even better when one considers that it's Game of Thrones star Rose Leslie who portrays the main character. In reality, however, the finished product is far from a success. The narrative is intrusive, hyperbolic, and so blatant that ended up draining excitement rather than creating it.
Therefore if you choose to ignore the on-the-nose nature of the script, as well as the painful walking segments, then Ultra Ultra's Echo isn't irredeemable. Echo appears, at first glance, as a very average stealth game in third-person, but looks can be deceiving. Or at least a bit. Here, there's no vulgar secretary guards or pale space orcs to kill, no night vision goggles or tranquillizer guns. The game has a single enemy type, but it's one tough nut to crack: yourself.
The palace's many rooms and hallways are rife with aggressive albeit imperfect versions of En, as there's nothing these spiteful doppelgangers would rather do more than twist the neck of our heroine. There's a catch: these clones can only do what En can do. Or rather, their attacks and movement patterns are dependent on the player. The palace power generator will sporadically restart, and with minute-long intervals the level ahead of you will darken, and when the lights return, the echoes have been updated; everything you've done during the power outage will now be used against you.