EQQO – Review
Follow Genre: Puzzle game
Developer: Parallel Studios
Publisher: Nakana.io
Platform: Switch, iOS, Android, PC
Tested on: Switch

EQQO – Review

Site Score
7.5
Good: Emotionally engaging narrative
Bad: Awkward controls
User Score
6.5
(2 votes)
Click to vote
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Rating: 6.5/10 (2 votes cast)

Parallel Studio’s EQQO has been available as a VR game for quite some time, but has made the jump to other platforms recently. EQQO’s goal is a lofty one: not only does it want to take players on a poetic and meaningful puzzle-adventure, it also attempts to improve the real world through the #EqqoDonation initiative DLC. It’s all very ambitious, but does EQQO deliver? 

Story

Taking inspiration from Ethiopian legends, EQQO tells an engaging and somewhat spiritual story, most of which is delivered through narration while playing. In fact, players don’t step into the shoes of Eqqo himself, but are actually playing as the narrator. The narrator takes on the role of Eqqo’s mother, although less so in the literal sense and more in the way of a higher being. We first meet Eqqo, a blind young boy, as he is trapped in a cage, in an idyllic field. After he breaks free, a star guides him to an Amlak Ebab, a snake god. The Amlak Ebab is dying and, as a final act of life, gifts her egg to Eqqo. This is the beginning of a symbiotic relationship, where Eqqo and the egg become dependent on one another as they embark on a journey together through sacred lands, filled with ancient temples, mystical creatures and deadly traps.

Graphics

The world of EQQO is brought to life by a simplistic but well-polished graphical style. The world isn’t overly detailed, with grass appearing as flat green surfaces, for example, but everything does mesh together well. The stylistic choices here serve to enhance the story-driven nature of the game, only bringing focus to what is important to that part of the story. The game makes excellent use of tilt-shift techniques to bring depth and perspective to the screen, although zooming in or out makes the camera lose focus sometimes.

Sound

An orchestral soundtrack, composed by Nicholas Bredin and recorded by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra further enhances the spiritual nature of the game. The haunting, slow music is beautiful, and while it fits the narrative, it detracts from the cultural roots of the story. EQQO is based on Ethiopian legends, but these origins are nowhere to be found in the music. As for the voice acting, the game is fully narrated and the voice actress that plays the part of Eqqo’s mother does a fantastic job. Her feelings of care are conveyed through subtle shifts in her tone of voice, allowing players to really emphasise and engage with her plight to guide her son through this world safely.

Gameplay

For the most part, EQQO is a physics based puzzle game but don’t expect a true challenge when it comes to solving puzzles, as those are rather easy. It’s clear that the emphasis was on delivering a story with an emotional impact rather than engaging gameplay. Additionally, EQQO was originally developed as a VR game, and it shows. The game is divided into eight chapters, each of which is divided into multi-screen maps. These maps serve as save points as well, and the game will automatically bring you back to the map you were on when you last quit playing. As mentioned earlier, you do not take on the role of Eqqo himself, but as Eqqo’s mother, an invisible deity with the power to manipulate certain objects in the area. Additionally, Eqqo’s mother can guide her son towards where he needs to go by tapping the ground. Eqqo may be blind, but not deaf, and he can still jump, run and climb, after all.

Each map provides Eqqo with a small challenge to overcome. These can be simple affairs, such as finding a way across a gap where a bridge has been demolished, or more complicated affairs involving placing the egg on a trigger switch. Eqqo’s mother can manipulate objects marked with a yellow line. These can be dragged, thrown, rotated, or whatever else the game needs you to do. Over the course of the maps, you build up a connection with Eqqo and the egg, as everything comes together in a logical way. You really start to care about protecting this egg and delivering it to its intended destination. This emotional connection becomes important as you progress through the story: after a certain point, shadowy creatures will start to get involved with Eqqo’s quest, and they will attempt to steal the egg from our blind hero. Certain puzzles require you to leave the egg unguarded for a while, as you need it to either trigger a switch or because Eqqo’s body needs to move through gaps that the egg can’t fit through. While there is no real time limit in place in the levels, it is then that these creatures will slither out and attempt to steal the egg, and Eqqo will have to chase them off.

EQQO’s in-game physics and control scheme can be a hindrance sometimes. This is where it becomes apparent that the game was developed for VR rather than with classic consoles in mind. Objects can be difficult to move around fluidly, and the twin-stick controller setup doesn’t help here. One stick controls the camera, whereas the other controls Eqqo’s mother’s “hand”. While we don’t have any experience with the VR version of EQQO, we can imagine that looking around using your head works far better than it does with the control stick here, as movement here feels way too sensitive. The maps are multi-screen affairs, and you can switch camera angles by tapping glowing viewpoints in the distance. This again makes more sense from a VR perspective than it does from a classic controller setup, as you’d expect to be able to flow around freely had the game been designed with consoles in mind first. That’s not to say that gameplay in EQQO is inherently bad. The puzzles themselves, while simple, are well designed and provide a relaxing, almost zen-like experience, combined with the spiritual story and relaxing music. We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention EQQO’s DLC here too: for a mere €1, the game adds one of five random tree designs to the world. While this doesn’t seem worth it on its own, all the DLC proceeds go to WeForest through the #EqqoDonation initiative.

Conclusion

EQQO’s gameplay is less than perfect, with awkward controls and puzzles that lack challenge. However, with an emphasis on a well-crafted narrative and polished world, enhanced by a beautiful soundtrack and fantastic voice acting, EQQO delivers an emotionally engaging story. The non-VR version of EQQO probably isn’t the definitive edition of the game, but if you’re looking for a game that has heart, you could do far worse.

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Rating: 6.5/10 (2 votes cast)
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EQQO - Review, 6.5 out of 10 based on 2 ratings
Sebastiaan Raats
Sebastiaan Raats


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