Ecco the Dolphin Review

Well that was a disappointment. No I'm not talking about what my last date said to me. I'm talking about having fond memories, or at least memories that you thought were fond, revisited and discovering they weren't that cool to start with. You know, like going back to your grade school to see the huge slide that scared you as a kid. Only now you find out the slide was only about two feet high. It would have been better to have never gone back just so you could have this cool memory of a terrifyingly high slide. That's the way I feel about Ecco the Dolphin for the Xbox Live Arcade. Over the years I had developed a fond memory of Ecco, but after playing it again all the frustration and bad feelings toward the game came flooding back. Read on to find out why...

First it should be noted that I REALLY wanted to like this game when it first came out. I love dolphins and thought the idea of being one in a game would be awesome. I mean, wow, how cool would it be to have the style, grace, and power of a dolphin? I was so excited that I drove a couple of hours to a bigger city that was getting the game before the city where I lived. I had such fantasies about how wonderful, tranquil, and spiritual the game would be for me. Then I played it. Big mistake, should have left the fantasy in my head because the reality was a nice enough game killed by insanely difficult controls.

Ecco is best described as an underwater platformer where you play as the titular character. You are given very little instructions as to what's going on and what needs to be done. Figuring out what to do is really just luck sometimes and that is well demonstrated from the very start of the game. You start as a dolphin just swimming around a nice area of water with some of your friends. Everything is peaceful. And that's it. You just swim around wondering what's going on and what you should be doing. You get a small hint from one of your friends asking you how high in the sky you can fly. What the heck does that mean? It means the game doesn't really start until you make Ecco shoot out of the water and gain some serious altitude. Obvious? No, not really. There are tons of these cryptic messages throughout the game. Some are easy to figure out, others, not so much. Anyway after launching Ecco all heck breaks loose and you're left all alone. Now your quest begins to find out what happened to your pod and set everything right.

There are puzzles to solve that require some thought, and there are other parts of the game that are just random. There are roughly 25 levels and for the most part they play the same way. Ecco must swim around mazes, always conscious about finding air because he is a mammal after all, to find special crystals (glyphs) that allow passage to the next level. While swimming around Ecco must look out for jelly fish, farting clams (yea, that's right), octopuses, and all sort of nasty sea creatures out to do him harm.

There are a lot of cheap hits that Ecco takes because it seems that the collision system sees Ecco as being bigger than he really is. There are many times where Ecco does not look like he is touching anything but gets hit anyway. Also once you get hit, unfairly or not, you can more often than not expect to get hit several more times.

Ecco is a hard game to beat and would have so been even if the controls were not consistently fighting you. Controlling Ecco is a nightmare and leads to many, many four letters words being screamed at the poor dolphin. Many times you must have Ecco make a very precise jump. This will drive you insane as you try over and over again to get the right angle before having Ecco jump out of the water only to see our hero slam into the side of a wall.

I didn't play though this XBLA version. Once I started the game all the bad memories came flooding back. I thought maybe I could power through it now that I am older and wiser. Nope, couldn't do it.

In The End, This Game Hath Been Rated: 37%. Ecco is a game with great promise, but horrible controls and a very high difficulty level combine to make a wonderfully beautiful animal into a sadistic game.


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