Depending on what you’re playing, games are either an enjoyable use of time or a complete waste of it. Ambling around and exploring Vice City was fun, almost creative, as much of its trivial stuff – fetch things, meet someone, do missions – could be forgotten as you played around in a believable game-world, stealing cars and shooting stuff simply for a laugh. Alter Echo, on the other hand, is a waste a time. The back-story is hackneyed nonsense, combat is mundane and the general sensation of playing ranges from crushing familiarity to bland indifference. However, as damning as this sounds, Alter Echo does in fact accomplish what it tries to do very competently (although we suspect the brief for this game wasn’t to make just an ‘adequate’ poor man’s Soul Reaver-meets-Devil May Cry). In keeping with Alter Echo’s storyline of ectoplasmic guff tuned sentient life-form, put to use by an megalomaniac who inevitably has to be stopped, developer Outrage has crafted an organic and biological themed environment. However – and here’s the rub that grates throughout this game – although functional, locales are deeply uninspiring. Textures are bland, drawn from a pig-ugly palette, and they inelegantly prop up a level design that is essentially a linear exercise in killing every enemy in a room and destroying the orb that spawns them. For all its promises – letting you assume three different combat forms, changing at will through melee, gunplay and stealth guises as you simultaneously build up combos, accumulating better weapons and abilities – all you’re ever actually doing is merely trawling through identikit enemies, facing the right direction, mashing at buttons and pulling at switches. Even where Alter Echo tries to innovate, it’s a pale imitation of the genres it borrows from. Publisher THQ has made much of the ‘Time Dilation’ feature where, by pressing the R3 button, your character, Nevin, transcends the physical realm of space-time to a multicoloured netherworld where he can dish out blows on unsuspecting enemies. The gimmick, though, is that you’re transported to a grid-like sequence where you play a game of Snake and try to capture enemy counters. Movement is achieved by moving using a massively cut down version of Dance Dance Revolution (press buttons on cue) that, if done correctly, results in a Manga-esque cut-scene of destruction. Effectively then, Time Dilation is just an elaborate smart bomb. Like its name implies, this game is merely a varied echo of what once was original.