Ecco the Dolphin Review
By Contributing Writer Jimmy Payne
Ecco the Dolphin is a perfect example of a game that's all style and no
substance. The graphics and presentation are great, but the actual gameplay
leaves a lot to be desired.
The only things keeping Ecco from a Crappy rating are its amazing visuals
and solid control. With the PlayStation 2, Xbox, and Game Cube looming on
the horizon, it's very easy to forget just how powerful the Dreamcast is.
Ecco serves as a great reminder by rendering everything almost flawlessly
with no clipping at all, from the smallest sea vegetation to the monstrous
whales. The animations are incredibly life-like, and the water physics feel
just about right.
The control is also well done for the most part. Swimming is achieved by
simply pressing a button a few times to get Ecco moving, and then holding
the button to keep Ecco going at a steady pace. The potentially frustrating
task of doing flips out of the water is actually very easy and fun to do.
Along with the impressive graphics and control are some nasty problems,
including some with the control itself. When you're squaring off with fast-
moving sharks, it's much harder than it should be to aim and successfully
hit them with your nose attack. If you are lucky enough to execute a nose
attack, it takes an amount of time to re-position yourself that is just long
enough for a shark to bite you to death.
The game requires you to surface every now and then for some air because,
after all, Ecco is a mammal. This isn't a problem at first, but it becomes
very annoying after a few hours of gameplay. When you've played the game as
much as I have, it becomes maddening to hear a beeping sound every two
minutes telling you to go up for air. I'm not saying that the developers
should have given Ecco infinite air like the apes in Donkey Kong Country,
but they should have at least made him able to hold his breath for longer
periods of time.
The music tries to tug at your emotions by having a sad tone, which
initially seems to fit the atmosphere of the game quite nicely. However, it
slowly but surely becomes annoying because you listen to the same sad music
throughout the game no matter what's happening. The only variation in music
comes during the mini-games (like racing with other dolphins), and these
moments are few and far between.
The absurd story line is nothing more than an excuse to send gamers on
yet another item-collecting wild goose chase. Seriously, how many video
game story lines feature a giant crystal tower being shattered, forcing the
player to hunt down all the crystal pieces? Couldn't the developers come up
with something more original and interesting?
More than anything else, it's the lack of focus that keeps Ecco the
Dolphin from being a good game. There's no sense of purpose or direction as
you swim around completing such mundane tasks as recovering lost crystal
pieces, finding lost baby whales, or talking to friendly dolphins. It's
generally not a good sign when playing a game makes you think about all the
things you could be doing other than playing the game.
The PlayStation 2's Japanese launch line-up has arguably given the system
a reputation of having games with good graphics and bad gameplay. If Sega
releases a few more games like Ecco the Dolphin, the Dreamcast will soon be
saddled with this reputation as well.
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