Monday 8 June 2009

The Worst Games I Ever Played #3

Oftentimes, I find myself faced with a game that fails to deliver on anything it promises. Mostly, this is the result of PR companies and game company heads overselling their products. Occasionally though, it is caused by the sheer stupidity of some people too nostalgic to accept that the games they enjoyed when they were younger actually sucked balls. On then, to Ecco The Dolphin on SEGA Mega Drive.

First, a caveat: I did not play a significant amount of this game when it originally was released on the Mega Drive in 1993. At the time, I was nine years old and was restricted by my parents to one console. I had a Super Nintendo, which was more than enough for me, barring some terrible James Bond game I already wrote about. My experiences with this game have been recent only, but I was assured by those I spoke to that Ecco the Dolphin was worth my time. I don’t speak to those people anymore.

Do you know what these people, these…charlatans of gaming, told me? “Oh, you’ll love Ecco, it’s one of the few games that are legitimately hard.” Well, on that point I’ll agree with them. Let me set the scene for you folks, I had just downloaded Ecco to my console of choice via their classic game download service (No mention of which console, they can offer to pay me for the privilege if they’re that bothered). I loaded up the game, controller in hand. I was so keen to see the fruits of SEGA’s labours reflected in a legitimate gaming challenge, something sadly absent in most cases from today’s gaming fare.

Imagine my dismay, therefore, when I booted up Ecco only to find an opening cut scene that explained NOTHING. From the little I could gather, Ecco originally had mates. Then, look out! It’s the Poorly Rendered Tornado of Doom! Suddenly, it’s just Ecco in the ocean.

Then it’s on to the main game. No mention of what actually happened; apparently SEGA figured the video would be self-explanatory in itself. Newsfalsh! It wasn’t. It’s up to you to figure out where to go. However, since the game is devoid of any sort of tutorial, you ALSO have to work out how to move yourself. It’s not difficult, admittedly, as the Mega Drive had a D-pad, THAT wasn’t the hard bit. The hard bit was working out where the fuck you were supposed to be going. There was only one mammal near by that could help; the infamous Killer Whale, or as they’re known, “The Strategy Guide of the Sea”.

Here’s the issue though: Back in those days, in-game hints were limited (in some cases they still are) to one explanation phrase, followed by repetition of the general gist of said phrase. Of course, in Ecco, there was no way to know the frame of reference to which the whale was referring, as he would never tell you where to find what you were looking for. I mean, come on; even “Go left” would have been more helpful!

To sum up, for those who are quick to decry my opinions, think of this: When Ecco went up to those crystals and headbutted them to try and show him the way (I am NOT making this up), how much cooler would it have been if one had just smashed into his stupid face? Precisely...

Oh, and another thing SEGA, THIS is what tornado damage should look like:

Don’t fuck with me SEGA, I’ve got Google Image Search!


  1. 'At the time, I was nine years old and was restricted by my parents to one console'

    THOSE BASTARDS!!! How fucking DARE they limit you to just the one console!!! Seriously, dude; do you have any idea how much of a spoiled brat this makes you sound? You should have been grateful for that godawful James Bond game, I tell you! GRATEFUL!

    The dolphin game does sound like it sucks balls, though, so I can't slate you completely today... which leaves me feeling kind of hollow.

  2. After reading this I was instantly filled with a need to don yon blinkered armour and raise the sword of belligerence to defend a childhood classic, however upon reflection I do accept your points. Ecco was bewildering at first. I can remember spending a long time confused once I first started. I mean seriously, one crystal would not let you pass, one identical looking crystal would give you the key to open the other crystal? This may sound straightforward, but when there were 3 “lock” crystals and a similar number of “key” crystals, it could get annoying. In the games defense, It did come with an instruction manual. Which had a lot of back story. A lot. Seriously, to the point where it explained that the other dolphins were wary of echo because he had three stars on his head. Really. Also the lack of a save point was annoying, especially on the later, longer levels. I mean, I like redoing hours of work as much as the next guy, but eventually, you start to want to see another level, you know?

    However... most of the good bits / reasons people have their rose tinted spectacles in the first place can’t really be appreciated anymore. I remember being blown away by the fact that levels weren’t linear tracks ala sonic anymore, it was an open world! In the days when sandbox gaming was a generation away, it seemed amazing. You could actually explore what was a, well, pretty beautiful world, given the hardware limitations. Also, puzzles! Granted, it was no lemmings, but it did take a long time to work out that some rocks were movable and could be pushed through a current to break a wall of rocks.

    I wouldn’t usually like to give away spoilers, but something tells me you won’t be going back to good ol’ Echo! What you thought was a tornado was actually an alien abduction. Along Echo’s journey to find out where his family / friends had gone he meets an all powerful ocean dwelling, er, thing... who sends him back through various stages of time, including prehistoric times, (which reminds me of the cute pterodactyl who carried you places) a submerged alexandrian library and eventually an alien world! Going back in time and meeting a younger version of the weird.... thing... that sent you back in time blew this nine year olds mind. C’mon, what isn’t cool about time traveling dolphins?

    But don’t even get me started on those fucking jelly fish...

  3. I simply can't imagine that a dolphin could be picked up and carried by a pterodactyl (no matter how cute) without thinking to himself 'OhshitohshitohshitI'mgoingtodiiieeee!!!'

    Maybe that's just me.

    Perhaps a patch could be added to the game where the pterodactyl actually does feed the dolphin to its young.