Dive: The Medes Islands Secret
WiiWare | Cosmonaut Games | 1 Player | Out Now | 1,000 Nintendo Points
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote (pointer)
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18th September 2010; By KnucklesSonic8
The game stars John Sanders, an underwater explorer extraordinaire! He goes on a quest to explore the Medes Islands and beyond in search of treasure and a lost civilization. His journey will take him to 10 different areas, each with their own perils and rewards to discover. Throughout this venture, John will record all his findings in his Expedition Log. Where this quest will take him is something not even he is certain of. But he's up to the task, and he's hoping you are too.
At the beginning of the game, you'll be introduced to an introductory cinematic that sets the stage for what is about to follow. Shortly thereafter, you'll arrive at the Dive Menu where you're presented with a couple selections. The first of which is your Log Book which lists the various locations you've been to, the treasures you've collected, and the maximum amount of depth for each area. There's also the Treasures option which keeps tabs on your trove of collectable goodies, the Equipment Shop, and an Achievements menu to monitor how many of the 12 available awards you've gathered. It's from this point that you can also begin your adventure by diving underwater.
The controls in this game are very well mapped, absolutely devoid of error. First off, aiming the Wii Remote at the TV screen will bring up a circular cursor that you can use to direct the direction that your on-screen diver is facing. Then simply hold the B Button to start swimming. On the left is a display that will help you keep a close eye on the amount of air you have left in your oxygen tank. Your supply will deplete gradually, so be on the lookout for air tanks as you go exploring. You also have the ability to perform a quick boost to give yourself a little bit of a push. To do this while already in motion, quickly release the button and press it again to execute the move. Be advised, however, that this will cause your air to decrease faster than normal, so make sure to use some forethought here.
No experienced diver would ever head beneath the sea without the proper items. As you scour underwater mazes, you're bound to encounter a number of sea life that will pose a threat to your survival. Thankfully, John comes prepared with a harpoon gun that can be fired with the press of the A Button. This comes in real handy for dealing with carnivorous sharks, defensive puffer fish, or even large sea anemones that seal off certain pathways. At times, you'll even need to exercise caution around giant octopi, a plethora of poisonous jellyfish, or a mother oyster. There's a good sense of variety in the sort of hurdles you'll have to overcome in order to make progress in the game.
You'll also have access to a flashlight with a limited battery level, which can help guide you through dark depths and enclosed areas. By pressing the Left Button on the D-Pad, you can activate it temporarily, but when you're not using it, it will recharge on its own. If only it were like that in real life! Additionally, pressing Right will pull out a map that will display all the areas you've visited and any nearby checkpoints. Any other sector won't appear until you've ventured through that area. And what expedition would be complete without a trusty compass! Situated in the top left of the screen is a radar that can help you discern the direction of the nearest checkpoint, treasure, and other useful details.
Gameplay is presented in the form of a 2D underwater adventure with many detailed environments. And upon entering the water, you'll instantly observe just how rich these areas really are. Not once does the game ever appear bland in its execution. The water looks really nice, occasionally appearing in an attractive orange-like colour. And in the background, you can also witness some well-designed majestics of the underwater world. Not only are the visuals impressive, but the layouts and environmental effects are also incorporated well. I did encounter some framerate dips once or twice, but otherwise, the game is really smooth and welcoming to play through.
There's also a strong musical soundtrack that can go from being smooth and relaxing, to sounding epic and full of suspense. And when your diver is harmed, the corners of the screen will appear red for a short time, in a similar manner to what was seen in Stop Stress: A Day of Fury. You'll even hear a loud, thumping heartbeat when you're close to passing out. It's all very, very quality stuff, and especially when you consider the team's first departure on the service, you appreciate it that much more.
Each level has a distinct design to it, consisting of many winding pathways that make the sea seem like a gigantic maze, full of hidden secrets. Rock masses are what really shape the walls of these level designs, but you'll also encounter a mix of semi-realistic environmental elements such as moss, coral, and other flora to keep things from looking rough. In one level, you'll even have to move slowly through a swarm of sea urchins, which can be quite a test if you don't have the dexterity for it. And on another occasion, you'll be swimming through dim ruins of an underwater structure, and this too is quite exciting. But this level of challenge is to be expected. After all, your main goal in each stage is to search for a valuable treasure of some kind that will bring you closer to your final destination.
Further, the levels in the game are very large in scope, meaning that you can spend anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes on your first go. In fact, you could even spend 15 minutes or longer if you're really dedicated in searching every last nook and cranky. And this is one of the many things I just love about the game. Sure it may mean that those who have a limited attention span might not have the patience to discover all the in's and out's of each level, but for those who are willing, it's a wonderful aspect to the game. In case you run into trouble, each stage has a handful of checkpoints, represented by an iron ball and chain. Not only are they good for marking your progress, but they're also useful for refilling your health levels when you're not doing so hot.
In addition to the predictable pick-ups (such as oxygen tanks), you'll also collect secondary treasures that are simply there for earning money. Sometimes you'll have to get close to spot bright sparkles of treasure or head into treacherous territory to pass over a wooden chest. Either way, earning gold is absolutely essential. At the conclusion of each diving session, you'll have the option to head to the Equipment Shop to pick up upgrades. These range from increasing the maximum amount of harpoons you can have at a time, to having a stronger-powered flashlight. As you get further and further into the game, you'll realize how crucial some of these upgrades really are.
As touched on earlier, you'll quickly observe that Dive is an experience that's highly focused on exploration. But initially, you won't be able to get very far because of the restrictions of your diving gear. In order to search through deep passages or to even access new stages, you'll need to make some purchases at the shop to allow you to dive to greater depths. As a result, repeat plays on almost all the stages is a given, depending on how much you spread yourself on your first go. But having these restrictions adds realism, and it encourages players to come back more than once.
Reaching the final destination in John's journey took a few hours, but it was definitely a fun ride. Once you pass through the final door, you'll be treated to one last cutscene before viewing the credit roll. And honestly, I was rather disappointed with its anti-climactic nature. Whereupon reaching this point in the game, essentially players are presented with one of two choices. You can feel satisfied with the game's ending and leave it at that (well, as satisfied as you can be with it). Or, you can see this as just the beginning of a new journey.
For obsessive players who like to see everything a game has to offer, you'll likely enjoy looking up, down and every which way to locate all of the treasures in each level. Mind you, some are made inaccessible due to some minor flaws, and there's still no word on whether or not Nintendo will be accommodating enough to allow them to fix this. However, this in itself shouldn't deter you from getting the game.
Ever since the release of Dive: The Medes Islands Secret, Cosmonaut Games has successfully managed to make a name for themselves on the WiiWare service. While the game has been compared to Endless Ocean repeatedly, there really is nothing like it on the WiiWare service. To be fair, it does carry some of the elements that were present in Endless Ocean. But it also has its own special feel where you can truly sense how much effort the developers put into this project. I found the game to be quite engrossing, to the point that it became hard to stop playing. There may not be a ton of variety, but that's not really surprising considering the nature of the game. And yet, this doesn't bring down the experience substantially. After such a strong showing, everyone will now be keeping a close eye on Cosmonaut Games to see what else they can deliver in the future. For now, it can be said that Dive: The Medes Islands Secret is a fantastic download that's undoubtedly worth the $10 asking price. Even if you're worried about the pace of the game, still give it a try and you might even surprise yourself with how enjoyable it really is.
26/30 - Very Good
Gameplay 9/10 - Lots of branching paths to explore, can attack enemies with your harpoon gun, upgrades affect your progress, large-scale levels
Presentation 9/10 - Lots of great sights, nice use of colour, very detailed environments, epic soundtrack, great layouts, some nice surprises to encounter
Enjoyment 4/5 -
Not even one ounce of frustration to be had, can be hard to put down, not everyone will enjoy it thoroughly due to the pace
Extra Content 4/5 -
Lasts a few hours but contains more replay value than other platformers, achievements, lots of treasures to locate, worth the points
Equivalent to a score of 87% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)