Reviews: Ecco The Dolphin

Defender of the Future is actually a pretty good game.

Okay, up front: I'm an old school Ecco the Dolphin fan. Defender disappointed me in a lot of ways - mainly because of the storyline, written by David Brin (Uplift series). That said, it's a fun game and I'd recommend it to anyone. I'd just recommend the Genesis/Mega Drive games first.

I played the DreamCast version. There's also a Play Station 2 version, but I couldn't tell you much about it. Gameplay wise, it really is Ecco in 3D. You have an oxygen meter on top of a health meter - Ecco's a mammal and needs to surface to breathe every so often. The game is set around progressing through levels, solving some at times pretty clever (and at times infuriating) puzzles in a truly 3D - you are underwater - environment. Over the course of the entire game, you will also collect powerups both for Ecco's sonar and for Ecco himself; things like the ability to turn invisible for a short time or to double the health meter for a while.

There are a lot of subtle references to the Genesis games, and some not-so-subtle ones like the hidden sidescrolling levels and the entirety of Hanging Waters, a loving and awesome tribute to the Good Future from Tides. Oh, and this game is, as usual, very hard. As far as gameplay goes, this game is nearly perfect as a member of the Ecco series; there are a few places where Ecco can get stuck, and I would have liked a better sonar map, but that's about it. The graphics are also some of the very best the DreamCast had to offer.

So. The story. The... story.

Guys, it's like this. I was expecting season three of SatAM and I got Sonic X. Both stories are good, it's just that I really did want to know what the hell happened after Tides of Time. And, sorry, Brin is a prick when it comes to this series. It became blindingly obvious he doesn't give much of a crap when he got the Genesis games confused for Defender. Which, you know, is fine - the man's gotta eat - but it still annoys me.

Still, to be fair, the story's actually pretty cool for a videogame if you pretend that this game is called "Dolphin Sim DreamCast". I don't give scores, so I'll just say this: if you enjoy hard, puzzling games, you owe yourself this game. You owe yourself the Genesis Eccos even more.