As someone who doesn't play VN's, I couldn't have predicted at all just how thoroughly this game gripped me and how invested I would become in these characters and their stories. Coming fresh from their other game Adastra; I found my expectations subverted at every turn, the layered narrative giving every route value and providing context and another piece of the puzzle to an overarching story, a far cry from the relatively straightforward and comfortable (by comparison) plot of Adastra.
I must stress that comfort isn't the kind of feeling you'll find with this story. Echo absolutely leans more on the physiological horror aspects rather than romance, I expected as much from what little I'd read about it, I didn't expect however how genuinely uncomfortable it would make me. Playing at night, alone and in the dark obviously helped greatly with immersion, but it's a testament to the writing how deeply it affected me with words and tension building alone when compared to most modern horror games. It wasn't as much in the way of expecting say, a monster to pop out for under my bed, but an overbearing sense of anxiety and uneasiness, that would often climax with distress, anger, and of course; sadness.
Speaking of, one route's ending hit me in a way few other fictional works have, leaving me so distraught I felt legitimately sick and had trouble sleeping that night. The other character routes aren't emotional cakewalks by any means, but those who have played the game likely know which one I'm referring to, with the information revealed therein recontextualising much of the story and greatly shifting your perspective on certain characters. I think it's a major achievement that depending on when you go through this route the kind of narrative you'll be getting can change significantly, though I personally see it as ideally being run through after a couple of the other ones.
Regarding other elements, from my limited exposure to VN's I think it is about what you can expect in regard to visuals, the character art is good and distinctive and the full illustrations, while sparse, are beautiful and accentuate important scenes. The music is also quite good and helps with building the atmosphere, I was actually surprised by the number of tracks in the game.
As far as criticisms go, apart from some minor typos sprinkled throughout the routes, I found certain parts of one route to be quite dragging and repetitive, and for one of the decisions that could lock you into a bad end to be essentially an arbitrary coin toss kinda sucked. The same route narratively is also probably the weakest, as it deals with a background plot to the town that while interesting, is much less emotionally involved for the characters than the other routes. There is good character development in this one though. The next problem I have I admit is quite subjective and some may even see it as a strength, but I personally found the lack of closure in most of the routes to be quite disheartening. I thankfully finished the game (at least until Jenna's route finishes development) on the one route I found provided a real satisfactory conclusion, though maybe I was just desperate for a happy ending and what I got was as close to that as I could get. I do hope the devs consider creating a final route after they complete Jenna's, perhaps unlocked after you finish each route, if not for closure, but just so I can spend more time with these characters I've become ever so invested in.
Echo was an absolutely fantastic experience and I would totally recommend it, I'm very excited to check out this team's other work, and whatever they'll be creating down the line, they've definitely made my quarantine a little less dismal!