503rd played so far


Genre: Action/Adventure
Platform: Sega Mega Drive
Year of Release: 1993
Developer: Novotrade International
Publisher: SEGA

Ecco the Dolphin is a game that has been in my conciousness for some time – at first reading about games I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to play, when it sounded amazing – large levels set in a sea world with storytelling that (two decades ago) sounded amazing.

It did fade for a while, being filed in ‘action games that sounded awesome at some time’ but not something I’d chase as much (games like Powermonger being described at the same time coming closer to a game I feel I’d enjoy). I was still happy to see it on the list, a good reason to try it.

For his birthday, Peter got a Mega Drive and this game happened to come with it (not through explicit setup, just something that happened as I tried to get him some good games). Still, I can play it properly even now.

Our Thoughts

I’ll be honest, our first impression of this game wasn’t helped by me accidentally stumbling into the warp area and skipping to the second level, which left off some tutorial stuff and meant we were figuring things out on our own for a while (together with a lack of manual). It’s actually quite good we got through it after a bunch of attempts.

The game’s concept is interesting. Not quite a platformer, the easy up and down movement you get from swimming adds a lot of freedom and space, creating levels that feel so much larger. A bunch of interesting more scripted interactions are added to this, which means you frequently have to use your sonar on crystals to get hints, unlock doors and so on.

It’s also still pretty hard in places, the first level getting me stuck because I couldn’t make my first jump out of the water. Even then that feels gigantic, large cave systems that require you to find rare air pockets (which usually come at the last moment when you really need it).

Despite its age, the game is still a beautiful game, using some colourful graphics and making the sea seem like a place of wonder. There are plenty of odd creatures around, not all aggressive, but most adding their own challenge.. It all works together that well, feeling like it pushes the machine’s graphics where it can.

Final Thoughts

Ecco the Dolphin is a pretty game that plays well. There’s something freeing about exploring the big sea areas, which are signposted enough to make sure you don’t get lost, but still feel like they span large areas. The challenges are good, in part because it’s not just about simple damage (easily solved once you locate some normal fish) but more about surviving the area, finding air to breath and solving the puzzles. A great sea adventure.