[Review] EQQO – Nintendo Switch

Written by Mel Curtis
  • Developer: Parallel studios
  • Publisher: Nakana.io
  • Release date: 7/2/2020
  • Price: £5.40 / $6.00
  • Review code provided by Nakana.io

A Change in Style

I’m a big fan of VR games. I have been since even before I managed to get my hands on my baby (a secondhand Playstation VR) because I saw a lot of potential to do new and interesting things with this technology. Yet, I am also very aware of the ways that VR isn’t a viable option for a lot of people due to price, motion sickness, or physical restrictions, so I am always happy to see VR games get adapted for non-VR when it is possible to do so. It doesn’t always work perfectly, though, so I was curious to see how EQQO (pronounced like echo) would fare with the treatment.

A Change in Perspective

EQQO’s store page claims that it was based upon Ethiopian mythology and while I don’t know enough about that mythos and legends to be able to verify that myself, the game certainly gives off plenty of the the feels of that kind of a story. I can see the places where the inspiration was used just from my basic understanding of how myths tend to be centered and formed. The part that really got to me about this story is the way that it was framed. You do not play as the main character of the story, EQQO. You instead play as his mother who is watching him from the stars and narrating his tale. As a result you have some level of influence. You cannot change the course of the story or anything like that, but you are his constant aide. You knock on the ground to guide him where to go. You push and move things to help him with the puzzles he encounters. It’s little bits of help but it makes sense because you are his mother and Eqqo is a small, blind child.

The perspective leads to a lot of interesting choices in the narration as well, meaning that it constantly feels like I am being told a bedtime story. Eqqo’s only voice in the story is little gasps and other noises since all of his speech is relayed through the mother’s narration. It’s a nice angle that allows the story to be told in a more interesting way and gives a lovely perspective that I think elevates the story than if it had just been told in a more straightforward manner.

A Beautiful Scene

One of the things that stood out to me the most while I was going through this game was just how beautiful the music was. There are a lot of times where EQQO opts to just have ambient noises be your only companion but the moments where the music does come out to play are downright lovely and there is a range from lighter and sweeter pieces to more foreboding ones. Each fit perfectly with the situation that was playing out at the moment and helped to draw me in just a tiny bit more than I had been before.

The visuals are likewise lovely. They’re simple but in that way that just makes me happy. The style that the team went for here really does reflect a sort of storybook quality. None of the details that are added get in the way of puzzles either, since what you can and cannot interact with is made fairly clear in the design. The environments are pretty in their own right and change at a good clip. Just when I started to get tired of the way rooms were looking. there would be a change in layout or color design that would alleviate that.

Hiding Some Flaws

Sadly, though, the visuals are also where I think this game suffered a lot in terms of being brought over from originally being in VR. There is this sort of fuzzy dark vignette that is around the outer edge of the screen all the time that I am sure that I would not have noticed much in VR, but stands out a lot on my TV screen. A stylistic flourish like this isn’t always a bad thing, but in darker areas of the game, it could sometimes prevent me from noticing something that was made harder to see by it, leaving me looking around longer than I normally would have. I start to have a problem with style when it gets in the way of my gameplay.

Perhaps the biggest pitfall of the design was when things would blur. Look at this image here.

That’s not the website failing to load the image. That was an effect that would happen if I moved the camera sometimes. It was more than a little frustrating, because, well, I couldn’t see. I’m not sure if this was meant to emulate the way your eyes can sometimes go fuzzy while playing VR or what the thought process was here, but it was not enjoyable when I was just trying to look around to solve a puzzle.

Light and Breezy

EQQO is a “light puzzler”. The emphasis is definitely more on the story being told and making that accessible to a large variety of players. There are points where the puzzle elements can get a little repetitive since they tend to function in the same way each time you run into them. There are new elements introduced here and there to alleviate this, though. I never found any of the puzzles to be particularly hard. A lot of them were more about finding the tools in the environment that I needed than trying to suss out any deep and complicated logic. That’s not to say that they’re bad at all. These sorts of games totally have their place, but if you’re looking for something that will stump you for a while, this won’t be it. Then again, I do play a lot of puzzle games generally and am used to challenging puzzles, so your mileage may vary. 

The setup is one that is common in VR games, the “diorama” model. While you can look around 360 degrees, there isn’t really a need to look behind since most of what you need will be right in front of you. It’s like you’re looking through the wall. You’re at a fixed point in space, though you can move between a few fixed points in order to get a new angle or view.  This is great for a VR setup since you’re always kind of moving your head a little bit and looking around is quick and easy. When I have to control which way I am looking with a controller, though, it can get a little frustrating. There is one moment where there is an invisible timer to pull some hanging chains and I had to do this several times because I couldn’t look around quickly enough to pull all the chains. It wasn’t like I was stuck there for a half hour doing this, but I couldn’t help but think that that section was likely much easier in the VR version of the game.

A Rocky Transition

EQQO is not the perfect transfer of a VR game to the switch, but if you are willing to ignore some minor frustrations, then it’s worth giving a try. There are a lot of downright beautiful moments and it’s a fairly short game that you can get through in one session if you’re dedicated enough. Not to mention that buying the DLC donates money to help plants trees!

Pros

  • Heartwarming story with an interesting perspective
  • Doesn’t overstay it’s welcome
  • Charming visuals
  • Great music

Cons

  • A bit on the easy side
  • Gameplay frustrations left over from original version
  • Visuals go blurry sometimes

Verdict
A sweet puzzler with a heartwarming story that is slightly hamstrung by the transfer between gameplay styles.
4/5

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