Free indie game Echo Beach has you hunt musicians in a world where music is illegal

In a world where music is illegal, musicians and fans flock to dark web forums — the Musicnet — to share tunes and talk shop. Echo BeachCreated by Rivals developer Tim Sheinman, is set in a future where music’s been banned and teams of government workers infiltrate internet forums to seek out musicians and music bloggers.

Echo BeachAs a clerk in the Ministry’s government-run Ministry, my job is to eliminate musicians who are part of The Musicnet. Like RivalsBefore it Echo Beach has a full, original soundtrack (with 11 songs) that’s one of the game’s major draws. It’s a great mix of many different styles and artists that makes the music sound good.

Echo BeachThe screen is mostly on one screen. It’s a cubicle that has a computer and sticky notes. This involves identifying real people and matching them with forum identities. I accomplish this by reading through posts on the forum and listening to growing numbers of songs. Musicians often reference their songs on the forum, dropping hints and clues on details of their lives: That information is key in figuring out who’s who.

a computer screen with post-it notes

Image: Tim Sheinman

The week in question Echo Beach is set, there’s a Ministry rally wherein workers are competing to take down the most musicians — the winner gets a trip to the titular beach, a reference, presumably, to the Martha and the Muffins song from the ’80s.

Puzzles aren’t overwhelmingly hard. Instead, they’re set up in a way that encourages me to explore, by rifling through forum posts and listening to songs, scrubbing for tiny bits of information I need to identify a musician. Throughout that process, there are also simple music machines to play with to create chords and drumbeats; they’re fun to play with, but sometimes helpful in identifying folks, too.

Echo BeachIt is both simple and thoughtful in its focus on the themes of online identity, policing, music. Sheinman, for his part, stated on Echo Beach is about “the tension between trying to live an adult life and making art for pleasure,” as well as “the value of culture in a time of austerity and emergency.”

Echo BeachThis is an exclusive donation-based game that’s only available at Play it in your browser. Or download a client.

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