When it comes down to it, your average adventure game usually boils down to either a murder mystery or some kind of Indiana Jones-style unraveling of ancient, arcane secrets. So the sole fact that Echo: Secrets of the Lost Cavern is basically about a young caveman learning how to paint sets it apart from the usual fare published by The Adventure Company. The prehistoric setting and protoshamanistic focus of the story unquestionably lend some unique flavor to the proceedings, but all this Stone Age window dressing doesn't really distract from the fact that Echo is otherwise a by-the-numbers adventure game...and a pretty short one at that.
Forget the wheel. This caveman just wants to paint.
After assuming the role of a young hunter-gatherer named Arok, the story begins with a lioness attacking you and forcing you to hide yourself in an old cave. Here you find ancient cave paintings that trigger a flashback to an encounter that a younger Arok had with an aged painter named Klem, who was not only an accomplished painter, but who also had the mystical ability to actually make the paintings animate on the walls. Galvanized by this flashback, and armed with a special stone that will help him solve the riddles of the cave, Arok decides that now is the time to find Klem, as well as learn his trade.
The storytelling in Echo is admittedly pretty clumsy. Thankfully, the game is pretty light on the chatter, instead putting the focus on the puzzles you'll need to solve to progress. The puzzles incorporate the whole prehistoric theme of Echo surprisingly well. You'll often have to gather items you find in your environment to build simple survival tools, like slingshots, spears, and waterskins, or even just to start a small fire. There are also a lot of puzzles involving the animated cave paintings that Klem left behind, though you personally don't get to flex your artistic skills as much as you might hope. Instead, the whole "moving paintings" thing sometimes comes off as a bit of a contrivance--an easy way to justify sliding tiles and other visual logic puzzles. The variety of puzzles is pretty good, but the difficulty level seems to be all over the place. At any rate, the game probably won't pose too great a challenge to the well-weathered adventure game fans that still consider themselves adventure game fans. But, even if you aren't a hardcore adventurer, chances are it'll take you well under 10 hours to learn the secrets of the lost cavern. And once you do, there's little reason to go back and do it again.