released on Aug 14, 2015

When Chase decides to write a college report on a case of mass hysteria that occurred in his old home town of Echo, he uses the opportunity to get his group of childhood friends back together for the week. However, a tragedy from their past weighs heavily on their minds, and the desolate desert town finds itself on the brink of disaster once more in this atmospheric slow-burn visual novel.

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im homophobic and developed a piss kink, masterpiece

Something special.
Easily the best writing I've encountered in a game.
It is, in no uncertain terms, a Furry romance visual novel, so if you're not into that, you're going to play it anyway, it's that good.

Solid game! pretty joyous. Goes on in some places but it got some really nice scenes and overall it's a fun experience

I don't have a single smart thing to say about this game. It hit me emotionally, not intellectually, and it's been hanging out in my head for the last month. Just some beautiful tragedy.

This review contains spoilers

Well, folks, let the truth be known, the niche furry visual novel is actually great! Taking note of the very positive attention this was receiving, my curiosity was sparked. I'm not a furry, and based on my admittedly narrow pre-conceived notions of the fringe subculture, I was going into this a bit skeptical. I believed I was pretty far removed from the game's target audience (I'll be referring to this as a "game" for simplicity's sake). This definitely surpassed my expectations, however, and I ended up loving it and was surprised by how much I connected with it.
We follow Chase, an otter who comes back to his hometown to do a project on the history of his hometown while simultaneously connecting with old friends. A fun vacation soon takes a nosedive into madness that only goes down further and further, each route the player chooses contributing to the larger story that is Echo. The content of these routes is largely intense, emotionally compelling, and genuinely well-written. The content focuses particularly on the strange events that occur in Echo as well as a death of an old friend, Sydney, that haunts Chase and his friends. The game is thematically very solid, consistently finding fresh and interesting directions to fully expand upon its themes.
I was initially unsure of how I'd feel about this from the prologue. The very beginning of this game is arguably my least favorite part, the writers deciding to ease the player in. There's a lot of foreshadowing being laid out which I appreciate in retrospect, but the character interactions in this section come across as disingenuous. I can see where the writers were coming from, but I felt myself already losing interest. Regardless, the rest of the prologue was keeping my interest and the game fully sank its teeth into me by the time we got to the lake and the route split occurs. The order in which I played the routes was:
Carl -> Leo -> Jenna -> TJ -> Flynn. I'll go over each.
Carl - It's generally accepted that Carl's route is the worst, and I guess I agree with that statement. I still quite liked it though and thought there was a certain kind of novelty to this one that the others didn't have. See, all the routes coalesce to form a bigger picture, and while Carl's does this as well, it arguably does it the least. Even though this makes for what is arguably the least redundant of all the routes, it feels rather... unessential? Raven was also probably my least favorite secondary character. Again, I definitely still enjoyed it, especially when Chase enters the crawlspace in the basement and the route turns into this wacky surrealist haunted house bonanza. The unknown horrors behind every door keep the reader on edge, making for a very fun, though also scary, and at times emotionally stirring experience. When Jenna tags along, we see what seems to be some kind of possession that overtakes her and Carl. It's their ancestors, whose personal conflict signifies that of a larger conflict that results from colonialism. In many of the routes in Echo, the game makes a point of things occurring in a cyclical nature and of how the past doesn't define you (among other things). The presentation of these ideas in Carl's route was done very well and, depending on whether Carl allows himself to be possessed by his ancestor in hopes they can get out of the surrealist hellscape, both endings succinctly wrap up his route. The bad ending though could use some work. See, his house ends up in flames and Carl and Chase are left to escape before succumbing to the flames. There is a clear opportunity to make an intense scene here. Maybe they could try to use a fire extinguisher but it's no use, and they run out of the house as quickly as they can as the flames rise, maybe someone trips, anything. But instead once Carl and Chase have escaped whatever hellish reality they were thrown into, it immediately cuts to them outside watching the house burn up. It's a sublime moment, don't get me wrong, it just feels like a waste of opportunity and honestly, the flow felt kind of off.
Leo - Arguably the most disturbing route. About half of the route is mostly a romance arch, one that I was initially not very interested in. But alas, when Chase and Leo get back together at the high school, it's a very sweet moment, even if I'm not fully on board with that choice. Kudzu also gets introduced, his part in the game taking some fairly interesting directions. The second half takes quite a jarring turn, however, as Chase becomes kidnapped and is put through the torturous methods of Brian, one of the many characters part of Duke's crew thing. They are somewhat of an antithesis of the group we follow - the good guys vs. the bad guys. Unfortunate individuals who become stuck in the harmful environments they've ended up in. Regardless, being held hostage by Brian made for a truly uncomfortable read. The route climaxes with Chase and the gang leaving Echo on the train, and depending on whether you choose to end things off with Leo or not gives way to good and bad endings. Both endings are brilliant, the good shows an emotional, vulnerable moment from Leo that stuck with me and the bad end takes a disturbing tone just as it was in Brian's. The bad ending also parallels a previous story of Echo's history where a man trying to get on the train fails to do so, losing his legs and unable to walk just as Chase loses his feet and also loses the ability to walk. Leo has become stuck in Echo, and while it's painful to see, there's a perfect bittersweetness that comes with ending things. The latter would certainly be undesirable for Chase.
Jenna - Also a pretty disturbing route. Looking over the redundancies with Leo's route, I really loved this. While Jenna may not be my favorite character per se, her dialogue has really phenomenal moments. See, Jenna is a psych major, and we see her intellect and self-awareness shine through in many of her lines. Every direction the route goes down seems to naturally enhance because of this. The ending is noticeably a bit more subdued compared to the other routes, but it really does feel appropriate considering the previous events.
TJ - I almost cried during his route. TJ has one of the more focused routes in the game (also the shortest). The group follows a newfound treasure hunt that Syd apparently had made before his death (this was apparently a common thing he did). This is when I first saw a truly more insidious side of Chase. The other routes hinted at Chase's involvement with Syd's death but never got into the details of how. This gets into those details and man... I mean wow. The flow and presentation of everything is nearly perfect. The little epilogue that follows somewhat spoils the moment though, even if it was a bit spooky. This very well might have been my favorite route had it ended with Chase and TJ driving out of Echo for what is likely the last time.
Flynn - I seemed to have saved the best for last, as this ended up being my favorite route. Flynn is also my favorite character. Yes, he's an insufferable asshole, but there is something so appealing about him that had me looking forward to his route and being able to explore the nuances of his character. I was given everything I was expecting and more. The themes of the cyclical nature of violence, the unknown, the truth, the socio-economic struggles of rural America, the lack of support for marginalized youth. It all comes together so perfectly, that even if the visual novel wasn't very subtle at times of what it was getting at, I almost cried (again) at just how full-circle everything seemed to become. The writers are smart though in allowing some of the questions to be left unanswered and rather inferred by the reader. I don't even wanna get into the details, just read the goddamn thing.
So, yeah. I had a blast reading this. If the quality of the writing wasn't enough, the art is pretty good too. The backgrounds are nice, the character designs are good, and at certain important moments, a visual depiction of the scene appears. I found myself captivated by the beauty and level of detail many of these depictions had.
It is not without its issues though. To add to the negative critiques I've previously mentioned there are a couple of mostly minor issues I had. The game typically shifts between humor that is either awkward or clever and witty. The latter typically proves to be much better, much of the awkward humor simply not landing.
There's also the fact that a lot of the routes are somewhat redundant although I wonder if this is essential to the story. See, in Flynn's route when they see Duke and Chase's car on the side of the road with the monster that keeps them in Echo, it's the same event that happened in Leo's route. Although this time, it doesn't make sense. Duke wouldn't be able to steal Chase's car and drive to that point in the cliff before them like he was able to in Leo's route. However, the writers are very much aware of this, with the characters just as confused as I am about how this is possible. The actual reason is kept a mystery - it allows the game to linger - though it made me wonder if there are some kind of alternative universe situations happening. Going back to Flynn's route, in the end, he's essentially free of the confines of time and space thanks to "Sam", this otherworldly entity, symbolic of... well, many things, but let's say he's that which can not be known. Who's to say that "Sam" and others like him can't also travel through different realities? The implications this has on the other routes become massive, and partly what made Flynn's route hit so hard for me. Whatever the case, there were still many redundant moments that occasionally diminished the experience.
One last thing, and this is such a minor issue but I cringe a little every time I see it, grammatical mistakes. It wasn't like, constant, but ever so often something will be misspelled, a name uncapitalized, a letter needlessly bolded. It's something that, again, is really not a big deal, but I'm hoping in future updates this can be corrected...
If I had to sell this to someone, I would say it's like a mix of Twin Peaks and a SIGNIFICANTLY better-written Riverdale but with young adults instead of high schoolers. Trying to convince people to read this may be difficult to do though because those who read visual novels are already a niche group of people along with the fact that the target audience being furries narrows the demographic even smaller. Many people will probably take one look at the cover and say "Nope," and even if they do get past that barrier, they may be turned away from the beginning since it's frustratingly the worst section. Whatever the case, I was very touched by this and hope great things continue to come from the people behind The Echo Project.

Hard to recommend people because of the furry say gex and large cw list but this game completely changed who I am as a person it’s incredible