Debbie Attwell checks out a delightful dolphin game from Microids.
Dolphin Spirit: Ocean Mission is an educational adventure with a touch of fantasy.
The tropical island of Maupiroa may look pretty and be fun to explore, but there is much work to be done. Your grandfather and the local conservation team need your help to complete mini missions, and before you know it you’re clearing the island of trash, helping dolphins caught in stray fishing nets, and searching for underwater valves to stop oil spills.
You also have a camera to capture shots of wildlife as you go, and the game gives you information about each creature and new environment you encounter. Do you know what a twilight reef is? I do now!
A game that involves a lot of collecting rubbish might not sound fun, but every time you clear a section, you see birds or fish returning, and the satisfaction of seeing the area restored to its clean natural state did give me a lowkey urge to go real-life litter-picking. I particularly liked the underwater missions, they’re quite relaxing. You’re joined underwater by your dolphin friend named Keanu, who follows you and is helpful to point out that last bit of trash you didn’t spot, and help you swim a bit faster.
The gameplay itself is fairly easy – the biggest difficulty I faced as a adult player was getting lost: you’re frequently being sent from place to place – “Run and tell Lisa about the oil spill!” – and despite having a basic map, those blank signposts would taunt my lack of navigation skills as it took me five minutes to get across the island. The controls are simple, which is good for younger players, but I would have liked the ability to jump rather than go around everything.
There is a slight magical element to the game, as you commune with mystical totems, who occasionally give you a new power, like being able to run faster, or see in dark areas. Your missions are accompanied with relaxing music, and although you are dealing with very real conservation issues, it always feels calm and fun.
Dolphin Spirit: Ocean Mission is published by the well-established French company Microids, and made by studio Magic Pockets, who have previously worked on big names like The Sims and Baldur’s Gate. If you’re looking for something challenging, this isn’t the game for you, but for younger gamers this is a vibrant cheerful game that teaches some important lessons about protecting our fragile marine ecosystem.
Dolphin Spirit: Ocean Mission is available now on PS5, PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series and PC.