Ecco the Dolphin

Underwater escort missions? My favourite!

I certainly didn't come across Ecco the Dolphin in my childhood, but when and where I did finally see it is anyone's guess. P2 remembers it from her youth, which must go to show how much street cred she has over me when it comes to retro gaming.

Ecco the Dolphin is not what it may first seem. Not by a long shot. I thought Doom had a weird plot, but this one might just trump it, for you play as the titular Ecco on a quest to save see life from being harvested by aliens. And if that's not insane enough, you travel through time to do so too.

I thought it was just a relaxing platformer of sorts. How terribly wrong I was.

Fun Times

Is there anything that looks like Ecco the Dolphin? It certainly stood out in the 1990s, with its somewhat realistic and detailed depiction of the underwater world - if it was full of corridors and crystals and puzzles that require the skills of a dolphin to solve.

Once you've been able to play around in the training pool, the game kicks off by sucking the seas of fish and dumping you back into a much emptier blue, apparently the only marine mammal who can save the day.

You'll dart and dive and headbutt whatever is in your way on your travels which will take you... uhm...


Yeah, I have no idea where the hell I'm going here. Or what I'm doing. Or frankly how to do it. You can interact with other sea-life with your dolphin-babble button, allowing you to chat to various creatures and push things around, but they're not very helpful, to me at least.

There were some changes in perspective at certain points, with the camera switching from side on to behind us, as the level turned into some kind of mini game, I guess, but watching a run through of this game on YouTube I've not seen that happen at all, so I'm even more stumped as to what it is that I'm seeing.

Levels... sections... mazes, maps, whatever you call them, are different, as far as the setting allows. You'll see a lot of rocks and caverns and stuff, but giant ice mazes make appearances too. You'll be performing different tasks as well. I'm not sure which tasks are important to the plot or to solve a level, but one of them is to escort fellow dolphins back towards the surface because they've gotten lost throughout the level.

Great. Lost dolphins that need escorting back to the surface of an underwater maze. Oh, and you're a mammal so you need to breathe, which means there's an oxygen limit as well, generous though it may be (you are a dolphin at least - you'd hope they could hold their breath for a while longer than a human).

Final Word

I had very little fun with Ecco the Dolphin. Part of that was not knowing the plot, what to do, where to go, all that jazz. The other part might have been because I was a flipping dolphin. Not exactly an action hero, but I'll grant you that Ecco does stand out amongst other protagonists of 90s gaming.

I'm watching it played right now and I still don't know what's going on, or why I should care about it, or how someone is supposed to figure these puzzles out. Other than playing it because it is a unique looking and probably feeling game, I don't know why Ecco the Dolphin is a must play.

Maybe you'll thoroughly disagree and point out the error of my ways, in which case thanks, but no thanks - I just can't see myself sitting down in front of this game for any length of time again.

Oh, shit, the time travelling. Yeah, that might pull me back into th- nope, I've seen it now, it wasn't enough to interest me. Sorry, dolphin fans.

Fun Facts

According to Wikipedia, developer Ed Annunziata was paranoid about kids renting the game and beating it over a weekend... so he made it hard. Thanks, Ed.

Ecco the Dolphin, developed by Novotrade International, first released in 1992.
Version played: Sega Mega Drive, 1992, via emulation.
Version watched: Sega Mega Drive, 1992 (World of Longplays)