The rise of indie development over the past decade or so has been fascinating to watch, as the ease of releasing games on digital storefronts like Apple’s App Store has brought so many experiences to gamers that probably wouldn’t have seen the light of day under the traditional models of game development’s past. Case in point: In September of 2013, developer KickBack Studios released Lost Echo ($3.99), an ambitious 3D adventure game for mobile. The game was created by just two people living in Greece, and as such it was rough around the edges in a lot of ways but also mind-blowingly impressive in others. While Lost Echo never quite set the world on fire, it did sell decently and cultivated a really dedicated set of fans. KickBack then spent the next few years releasing frequent updates to the game that polished out a lot of those initial rough edges. While we never officially reviewed Lost Echo back then, we did point out when it got one of its larger updates in November of 2015 alongside a launch on Android and an official teaser for Lost Echo: Resonance, which was intended to be an epilogue of sorts to the main game.
So here’s where things in the indie development world get weird. Lost Echo: Resonance was meant to be a pretty brief additional chapter that would tie up some loose ends in the main game and offer a more definitive ending. It was initially expected to take around 6 months and at maximum up to a year to complete, and would be released as a free update. Keep in mind though that this is a two-person studio, and once Lost Echo was released and out in the wild, just keeping it maintained became its own full time job. New hardware and operating systems are always wreaking havoc on developers, and as new technologies are introduced and new hardware offers even more power, KickBack wanted to ensure that Lost Echo could benefit from them. Hence them continuing to update the game on a regular basis for nearly three years.
Then there’s the “fun” part of creating your game using a 3rd-party engine, in Lost Echo’s case the Unity Engine. Now don’t get me wrong, Unity is absolutely fantastic and there are a ton of benefits to using it, not the least of which being that it’s supported on basically every single platform so your game has the potential to be released on absolutely everything. But that also means you’re beholden to the decisions and changes made by Unity, and that sort of threw KickBack for a loop during the transition from Unity 4 to Unity 5 (aka Unity 2017), something they wrote about on their blog back in December of 2017. Long story short, they could have simply transitioned the game to the new version of Unity and sent out an update, but due to some major changes to the engine in terms of how things like lighting work, the game would have actually looked worse than it did before. As pointed out in that blog post, having to write release notes that went something like “-Redid the lighting for the whole game, now it looks… worse…?!” is not something the team would have been satisfied with.
And so due to those circumstances, KickBack more or less went back into the code for Lost Echo, burned it to the ground, and rebuilt it from the ground up. Which (finally!) brings me to today’s news, which is that all the fruits of that labor of the last year or more has materialized in a new update for Lost Echo that pretty much remasters the entire experience. It now supports all the latest devices and screen sizes and has tremendously improved visual effects, improved navigation, improved text and animations, and just so much more. Again, this is one of those things you only really ever see in the indie space. A tiny team has given an absurd amount of love to their baby and released it for the world to enjoy. For a five year old game. That you bought for three dollars or less. It’s incredible. While this update is free for existing owners of Lost Echo, KickBack has bumped the base price of the game up a whopping (/sarcasm) one dollar to $3.99. Very easily still a steal for such a cool game.
So what about Lost Echo: Resonance? Well, despite many people giving up and thinking it’s been canned, it actually is still very much in development. KickBack’s most recent blog post from this past December (a very cool, choose-your-own-adventure style blog post I should add) lays out a very rough roadmap for the Lost Echo series and their hope is to get Resonance out at some point in 2019. It has grown considerably from the brief epilogue it was originally envisioned as, and as such could basically be considered a full sequel. Despite this, and despite basically everyone and their brother telling them otherwise, KickBack still wants to release it as a free update to the base game, though they’ll probably raise the price by a dollar agin when they do so.
These are really the types of experiences that drew me to mobile in the first place way back when. Small studios working on passion projects where they care about the experience before they care about striking it rich. Everything KickBack has worked on in regards to this latest massive update will also benefit the development of Resonance, and when it does finally release it’ll feel like a more cohesive whole because of it. Also the Android version of Lost Echo should be receiving this same big remaster update as early as next week. If you enjoy adventure and sci-fi and haven’t checked out Lost Echo previously, now is pretty much the best time to rectify that, and you can find all the previous discussion and impressions about the game from the past five years in our forums.