EQQO (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Nikola Suprak 12.08.2020

Review for EQQO on Nintendo Switch

It is always a bit of a risk when you discover a new indie gaming studio you haven't heard of before. On one hand, these studios tend to have passion and vision, and can, sometimes, release some a really clever product that takes a wildly new and innovative approach. On the other hand, however, these never seem to have the funding they need to execute the vision they want, and the end result can be mixed at best. French developer Parallel Games has a very small library of titles in its name, and it tends to focus primarily on VR titles. One of their titles, EQQO, recently found its way to the Switch, and while it clearly wasn't going to be a system seller, the visual presentation and unique narrative style grabbed Cubed3's attention. Here's a thorough look at it.

Something bad has happened in EQQO. The narrator of the story is the mother of a blind child named Eqqo, who goes missing shortly after some shady looking guys start eying their village. It isn't immediately clear what has happed to poor Eqqo, but when the whole thing begins, he finds himself trapped in a cage somewhere in an empty, idyllic countryside. There are ruins, and big opens fields, as well as a dying snake god and - wait, what was that last one again? The snake god gives Eqqo an egg to take care of, and since it is always good to follow the orders of any sort of dying deity, Eqqo picks up the egg, and tries to keep it safe from harm. This is even harder than you think it might be for a blind child, and Eqqo soon finds himself pursued by men and shadow creatures that want this for themselves. The odds for "all sorts of evil and malevolent forces vs. a blind, young child" don't sound all that good, but Eqqo is exactly the kind of hero that might overcome them.

This is reminiscent of a fairy tale or fable, and in fact the plot was inspired by myths and legends of Ethiopian lore. The story here is, without a doubt, the strongest feature of EQQO. It admittedly feels a bit basic, and it isn't the kind of plot line that is going to shock or surprise anyone. At the same time, though, this is a thoroughly charming tale, and a lot of time went into creating a really loving experience. You feel the pain in the narrator's words as she describes what is happening to Eqqo, and the dialogue between Eqqo and the egg vacillates between silly and serious in a way that really works. It is unlikely the gameplay is going to grab anyone's attention, but the story is strong enough, and told with enough heart and charm that it is going to motivate most people through the end regardless. It is a poignant and well-told story, and this manages to elevate this into something interesting, even if the game itself seems to be trying to be as uninteresting as possible.

Screenshot for EQQO on Nintendo Switch

Controls are fairly loose, and Eqqo isn't under direct player control. He is instead guided by tapping on the screen. This is mainly for narrative reasons, and since Eqqo is blind, he is meant to be reacting to the sound of the tapping to guide him towards his goal. In terms of narrative, it works. Gameplay-wise, it is significantly less interesting. It feels a bit like trying to guide a dog through an obstacle course, and, in all honesty, tapping where you want the character to go is always more frustrating than directly controling the character. It can be a bit imprecise at times, and it really only isn't a problem because this never has all that much for Eqqo to do. It is a good example of the game putting the story in front of the gameplay, and doing so in such a way that this actually suffers for it.

The camera is similarly frustrating to control, and it is a weird combination of gyroscope and control stick controls. Gyroscope controls by themselves can be a bit wonky, and the sticks work fine, but the combination of the two is this unholy mix hat simply isn't fun to use. It feels like trying to spin a basketball while sitting on top of a spinning jenny, and there really isn't a good reason to try to use both like this. Moving the sticks by themselves is too slow, and if you happen to move your arms slightly, suddenly you are careened to another part of the screen. The standard method is too slow, the gyroscope controls are too imprecise, and there is no happy medium here making the camera a complete frustration to deal with.

Screenshot for EQQO on Nintendo Switch

The gameplay itself is extremely basic. Eqqo must progress through a series of rooms or small areas, solving some rudimentary puzzles to get to the next one. Each location usually has two to three different points of view that can be moved between, and it offers a slightly different perspective on the levels. There will be a handful of things that have some sort of interaction in each area, and by touching them in the right order, or moving Eqqo to the right area at the right time, the next door will open up and you'll be able to do the whole thing over again. Things can be dragged or rotated by grabbing and then moving them where they need to go, and that is essentially the sum of all the controls that need to be used to see this through to the end.

A puzzler like this would be a halfway decent idea, even with the less than fun controls, and at times EQQO comes close to being fun. This introduces some basics that look like they will be built up, and occasionally a puzzle will offer up a fun 'aha!' sort of moment. There will be a symbol on the ground, and a similar symbol on the wall, and the game doesn't really offer up many clues other than a couple of spears chucked somewhat close to it on the wall. Figuring out you need to hit the symbol is a very simple sort of puzzle, but this does a good job just letting players discover this for themselves, without too much obvious hinting. It feels like this is building up to something, and the occasional flashes of good ideas are entertaining.

Screenshot for EQQO on Nintendo Switch

Unfortunately, this ultimately doesn't really know what to do. Too many puzzles devolve down into the same sort of mess, and hopefully "standing on the clearly elevated piece of floor" sounds like a riveting puzzle, because it is one that seems to pop up every other room. The rooms are small, and there are only a couple of things that Eqqo can interact with, so sometimes the puzzles sort of solve themselves. Move around the one or two things that you can, and direct Eqqo towards anything he can interact with, because that strategy alone solves around 90% of the game.

It is always hard to come up with fun puzzles in something like this to fill up the entire runtime, but it feels like EQQO doesn't even really try. Puzzles will repeat themselves over and over again with only minor tweaks on things that were in previous rooms, and the game really seems to be struggling to figure out stuff for the player to do. This title is clearly meant to be focused on the narrative, which is fine, but the developer forgot to build a game around it, which is decidedly less fine. Between the shoddy controls and boring puzzle design, this is a really hard game to get into.

Screenshot for EQQO on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

EQQO is a really charming, interesting game that unfortunately all comes apart when you get around to actually playing it. The presentation is great, the story is wonderful, and it feels like this interesting little storybook is unfolding right in front of your eyes. It was a game that one will desperately try to like, but it keeps getting in its own way with awkward controls and boring gameplay. It is like sitting down and hearing a beautiful story that the storyteller keeps interrupting to burp every ten seconds, and it becomes harder and harder to focus on the story the longer things go on. It might be good enough for people that play video games primary for their story, or for those looking for a charming presentation, but those that actually want to play a solid game will have to look elsewhere.

Developer

Parallel Studio

Publisher

Nakana.io

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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