Anyone who was unfortunate enough to play the recent Leisure Suit Larry remake will be only too aware that old 2D favourites rarely benefit from the addition of an extra dimension. But it is possible to create a modern yet recognisable version of an old game with 21st-century technology, as the original Metroid Prime proved. Metroid Prime deservedly picked up a hatful of awards (and kept game-starved GameCube owners temporarily free from abject despair), so Metroid Prime 2: Echoes has a lot to live up to. Happily, it doesn't let the franchise down in any way.
Retro Studios, unsurprisingly, resisted the temptation to tinker with the format which worked so well for the original Metroid Prime. As ever, you play the foxy, (not that you can tell with her hidden behind a combat-suit, but we can dream) Samus, an action hero who, frankly, makes Lara Croft seem about as hard as Natalie Appleton.
This time around, Samus pitches up on the planet Aether, previously devastated by a meteor which opened up a dimensional rift. The Luminoth, the race which occupied Aether, soon found themselves fighting off a race of dark creatures called the Ing Horde, and as dimensional rips opened up on Aether, war between dark and light forces ensued. Subsequently, a Federation ship chasing space pirates landed on Aether, only for the crew to be decimated by the Ing Horde.
That ship, though, managed to send a distress message, picked up by Samus. The game starts with Samus landing on Aether and, after a bout of puzzle-solving, finding the doomed Federation ship.
Samus it ever was
As you would expect, the gameplay is a mix of shoot-em-up action and puzzle-solving, all of which has been given that inimitable Metroid spin. Typically, Samus acquires objects and upgrades through the course of the game - including two suits (named the Varia Suit and the Dark Suit), missiles, the Dark and Annihilator beam weapons, the Dark and Echo visors and extra moves for the Morph Ball.
At first, though, she is devoid of missiles and armed only with the Power Beam (which, like before, can be charged). Sensibly, Echoes has a pretty gentle learning curve - at first, the only enemies to be found are overgrown crickets, but before long, those (and dead Federation officers) become energised into much more formidable opponents by the Ing Horde.
Gentle puzzles generally involve squeezing into small spaces using the Morph Ball and scanning door-opening mechanisms (the controls of Metroid Prime 2: Echoes are identical to those of the original Metroid Prime). Those looking for replay value can scan pretty much anything, acquiring a vast amount of background data which can perused on a rainy day. A healthy curiosity is required, though - for example, an innocuous-looking crate yields missiles for the first time, which are required in order to open an early blast door.
As Samus begins to progress through Aether (whose levels are generally larger than those of the original Metroid Prime), things begin to hot up. The dark energy possessed by the Ing Horde becomes more prevalent, and portals between the light and dark worlds appear. This is where Echoes really starts to differ from Metroid Prime.
Once Samus passes through a portal to Dark Aether, she finds herself in a very hostile environment, which constantly saps her health. Luckily, the Luminoth left Light Crystals in Dark Aether, and Light Beacons, which can be energised with Samus' power beam. These provide areas of respite from Dark Aether's atmosphere, and suitable areas from which you can fight off the Ing Horde.