||Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future
Sega's aquatic hero makes a big splash on the DC - Review By Tren
The game's main problem is with continuity. Due to the way the game works, it is not always easy to tell exactly what to do next or where to go, and how exactly the current level can be finished. It's possible to swim around for ages without achieving anything, not even knowing if you're doing the right thing. This would be thoroughly frustrating if the game used a limited lives system, but thankfully you can restart as many times as you wish (although where exactly you will spawn each time isn't always clear). The game can be tedious, mainly because it's not always apparent exactly what you must do to finish a level; fans may argue this is part of the fun of Ecco, but it will no doubt prove frustrating and annoying for many. The game looks like it should appeal to all ages, but in truth unless the child in question has an incredible attention span they will quickly get frustrated with Ecco, as they'll most likely find the control too difficult and the hints too cryptic to get very far. Having said that, some adult gamers still have short attention spans, and may not find enjoyment in Ecco.
The cutscenes use the in-game engine, and are actually fairly impressive.
As I mentioned, there are save points, but it's impossible to see them; the game just decides which of its in-game restart points you last passed through before dying, and after pressing start on the continue screen it allows you to continue from there. This may sound like a huge shortcoming, but is really just a minor annoyance. You may get temporarily disoriented from an odd respawn, but this usually isn't too much of a problem.
In Ecco, enemies respawn every time you die and restart. Tie this in with the above point about the game's confusing progression and you do occasionally get wasted gaming time. Let me explain by giving an example of a particularly frustrating moment I came across. In the 4th level I made my way through a labyrinth to find a fork; the first way led to nothing, so I assumed I must continue in the second. The second path contained a pool at the end with two regular sharks and one hammerhead shark, which I assumed I would have to kill. After many restarts I finally killed all three, only to find I was rewarded with absolutely nothing. Had the game not respawned the one or two sharks I had successfully killed each attempt, finding this out wouldn't have been such a chore.
Finally, a nice, restrained use of lens flare.
Another negative point is the frame rate, which as previously mentioned fluctuates. Once in a while, it seems to go incredibly slow at unexpected points - i.e. a simple, plain-looking tunnel with some coloured seaweed in it brought the game to a crawl. I can only guess that this is due to optimisation problems, although thankfully the times it occurs are few and far between.
Finally, although the soundtrack is great, it has been engineered in a poor way. A good example of excellent music engineering is Sonic Adventure, which without being obvious loops music continuously without pause in the game. In the case of some of Ecco's music, the soundtrack just stops, or fades away and leaves a couple of second of dead silence, which is annoying and ruins the ambience a full continuous soundtrack could bring.
The Final Word
Although Ecco was obviously a labour of love for its developers, it isn't necessarily something everyone will find instantly accessible as a masterpiece (unlike something like Soul Calibur, which has a huge appeal). If you persist and have the time to learn Ecco's massive levels, however, you'll find it immensely rewarding, especially once you reach Atlantis itself. Even if through reading this review you don't like the idea of Ecco (i.e. you're an action-quick-fix-junkie) at least try renting Ecco for an evening or two. Even if you have a short temper, Ecco's combination of beautiful graphics and soothing, ambient music can be strangely therapeutic.
Highs: Incredible graphics, well designed puzzles, great ambient soundtrack.
Lows: Large levels can be disorientating, frustrating for younger players.
Other: 1 player, VMU Compatible (6 blocks per save) VGA Box Compatible, Jump Pack Compatible.
Intro (MPEG) - Again, the intro uses the in-game engine, and is actually pretty cool. [Big (17.9M)] - [Med (9.6M)] - [Small (2.1M)]
Gameplay 1 (MPEG) - Shark fighting. [Big (10.2M)] - [Med (5.5M)] - [Small (1.2M)]
(out of a possible 10)
Visit this Game's Dreamcast Database Entry
Comments on this review? Mail Feedback.