Review by Jenny Bristol, Common Sense Education | Updated December 2013

Prisoner of Echo

Sound science game doesn't resonate

Subjects & skills
  • Science

  • Critical Thinking
  • Communication & Collaboration
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
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Pros: Exposes students to a wide array of sound-related concepts.

Cons: Not much is explored in depth or put into sufficient context.

Bottom Line: Few games deal with sound science, so it's unfortunate that Prisoner of Echo doesn't do it better, ineffectively weaving physics with game mechanics.

Prisoner of Echo is perhaps used best as a hook to get students into sound, and as a foundation from which to launch in lessons on sound physics. Even if it doesn't teach the concepts all that well, enough happens in the game that teachers should be able to use the game's mechanics as a touchstone when introducing key terms. Teachers may even ask students to do some reading, or listen to a lecture, and then try to map what they've learned to what they experienced in-game.

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Prisoner of Echo is meant to teach students the properties of sound by making sound physics into puzzle mechanics. Students must navigate factories, warehouses, and mining tunnels in an attempt to explore and later escape from the asteroid. Players must learn to manipulate how much sound they're producing because enemy robots who might foil the player's plans are scattered around and listening. But since different areas of the game have different ranges for how far sound travels, there ends up being more trial and error than is desirable. 

Unfortunately, the learning content feels a bit superficial. What players are actually doing doesn't model sound all that well; rather, sound science serves more as a thematic overlay. There's little explanation of how/why things work the way they do. The built-in dictionary is very descriptive, but without effective context or in-game instruction, students are left with more questions than they begin with. If framed appropriately, however, Prisoner of Echo can get students thinking about environmental ethics since the story deals with preserving or harvesting resources.


Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Giving the kids the power to see and manipulate sound is empowering -- in theory. But inconsistency means fun is traded for frustration, and the graphics make basic navigation and play difficult.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Information is thrown at players, but is mostly irrelevant to gameplay, lacking context or the ability to apply the information in any meaningful way. The dictionary tool is very thorough, but just as out of context as the built-in learning.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

Sparse instructions and a lack of basic help tools. There are no scores, hints, or tips. There are no extensions, and it's only moderately accessible to kids with special needs.

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