Dive: The Medes Island Secret (WiiWare)
I first previewed this game wayyyy back in May and I’ve owned it for many months since its July release, but didn’t want to do even a mini-review until I’d put in some quality time with it. As of this writing I have only the titular “Medes Island Secret” itself to locate, but I’m saving that for when I’m in the right mood rather than rushing it as this is a game to savour.
Dive feels very much like a souped-up version of the old Atari 2600 game, Aquaventure, in which players control a diver who spears fish to score points whilst avoiding sharks. Of course there’s much more to Dive than this as you’re actually hunting for sunken treasures off the coast of several islands in the Mediterranean and Caribbean seas.
Each of the maps is pretty large and there are some rather twisty and circuitous routes to take to find the main treasure; the location of which is always indicated in your radar. On the way you can find other treasures as well as air and spear pickups to replenish supplies.
There’s hazards aplenty in the form of the usual sharks, but also stinging jellies, giant anemones and aggressive poisonous fish. The visuals are definitely something to sing about. The 2D presentation has a good retro feel, but there’s been no skimping in the art department with loads of variety in the type and size of both hazardous and background fish. The environments are highly detailed and though you might have trouble telling foreground from background at times, it’s never a show-stopper. Animals and your diver have lifelike animation which, combined with some nice sound effects, wonderfully adds to the fun of simulated underwater exploration.
This would be nice enough, but the outstanding soundtrack is what really completes the package. Light and airy guitar notes deliver a mellow way to relieve some daily stress in the sunny seas, whilst more sinister organ sounds build tension in the dark depths where you have only an electric torch to light your way.
All the treasures are used to raise funds to upgrade your equipment, allowing you to reach greater depths on return visits to the earlier islands to do further exploring on the way to solving the central mystery. There’s achievements to be earned and you can read about the islands and treasures in data logs accessed via the pause menu. If there’s anything negative to say about Dive, it’s that there are some bonus treasures which are impossible to reach – apparently because someone forgot to program a path to them!
If you’re compelled to get every last item in a game before you can go on with your life, you’re doomed to disappointment. Nevertheless I certainly hope that won’t keep you from enjoying one of the best WiiWare games available.
Commando (Virtual Console Arcade)
Nostalgia can sometimes cloud a person’s objective view of old video games and this is rarely truer than of a game like this. Commando is sort of the successor to Taito’s Front Line: a vertically scrolling shooter in which you control a soldier fighting on what looks like a WWII battlefield. You shoot everyone in sight, try to rescue friendlies being escorted away as POWs and avoid enemy bullets and grenades whilst letting loose your own.
Not bad in description, but it’s an incredibly challenging game even on the default difficulty. Capcom have provided a variety of ways to make it easier such as boosting the starting number of lives and lowering the threshold for extras, as well as adjusting the game difficulty level, but my inner masochist just sucks it up and takes the default every time.
If you like your old-school arcade games on the challenging side give this a go – just be sure to turn off that Continue setting, okay?