There's been something of a boom in 80s nostalgia in recent years, much of which has Stranger Things to blame for. It's no surprise, as the show's captivating world and electrifying synth tones give the feeling of a warm, cosy comfort blanket - despite the horrors the show presents. Echo Generation is similar, clearly inspired by shows such as Stranger Things and movies in the vein of The Goonies. The result is a wonderful adventure filled with 80s vibes that's an absolute treat for Xbox Game Pass members.

Echo Generation mixes turn-based combat with the adventure game style of classic Double Fine games such as Grim Fandango. When you're not fighting racoons, aliens and killer clown robots, you'll be finding items and discovering who you need to take them to. All of this is wrapped in a heart-warming if somewhat messy narrative about a pair of siblings who venture out to uncover what's happened to their missing dad. It's filled with twists and turns, but is often unfocused and flies off in random directions. One minute you'll be fighting a family of racoons led by Uncle Jimmy before quickly venturing into an abandoned school plagued by a ghostly spirit. It's not cohesive, but it's full of surprises.

As for the adventure itself, exploring the world of Maple Town is an absolute joy and filled with likeable, fun characters. From a dog who sniffs out parking violations to a knight attempting to slay a monster in the local park, there are plenty of personalities you'll get to know and help throughout the world. All of it is punctuated with an absolutely stunning voxel art style, delivering some expressive character models and gorgeous vistas. You never know quite what to expect around each corner and it makes the journey consistently exciting.

When you're not exploring, you'll be engaging in turn-based battles. While not overly complex, each attack offers a small mini-game to conquer, offering higher attack damage if successfully completed. As you venture throughout the world, you learn new moves by acquiring comic books, further deepening your arsenal of attacks. In the early hours, combat is surprisingly challenging due to you not having a full party, with some early bosses pushing back hard. One encounter in a junkyard with a titan of a robot is a particular standout and caused quite a few headaches. Thankfully, once your party expands, the experience is a lot more forgiving - especially when you unlock Doggo, a dog that can heal your entire party in one move.

Along with battling, you'll also be completing a variety of adventure style quests. These very rarely delve outside of bringing one item to another person, but it encourages you to explore every corner of the world. In the later hours, it becomes a bit tedious, as you have a sprawling map with no fast travel and occasionally hit the usual genre roadblocks. Depending on your experience with adventure games, you may spend a good chunk of your time interacting with every NPC you find, hoping the item you have in hand is suitable for them. While this isn't too much of a problem in the first half of the game, the latter half's pacing can be ruined by these moments.

For any faults it holds, the jolly vibes Echo Generations exudes with its 80s atmosphere more than makes up for any hurdles it faces. A fantastic synth soundtrack pulsates in the background and the world of Maple Town oozes the feeling of that era. From video rental stores that still sell VHS tapes, to the quaint suburban area filled with kids in treehouses and streets littered with bicycles, its influences are easily recognisable and feel comforting. Venturing into each nook and cranny of the world reminded us of South Park: The Stick of Truth, minus the vulgar language and modern-day setting.

Conclusion

While Echo Generation stumbles a few times, our time with the game was never squandered. It's a testament to how wonderful its world is to explore, along with its engaging RPG systems. You never quite know what surprise will be in the next frame of the game. Will it be a mysterious alien spaceship? Or will you stumble across the legendary monster in the woods? The intrigue never lets up, and while the narrative itself doesn't quite land as well as you may hope, Echo Generation delivers an exciting adventure that Xbox Game Pass subscribers are not going to want to miss out on.