Review: Dive: The Medes Islands Secret (WiiWare)

As much relaxing as it is fun

Dive: The Medes Island Secret marks the second WiiWare release from developer Cosmonaut and a far more ambitious project than its first release 5 Spots Party was. This time around, players will get the opportunity to explore vast underwater depths in search of hidden treasures using the unique motion controls of the Wii Remote.

The gameplay premise of Dive basically revolves around the simple principle of exploration. Each level will require you to take control of your diver whose ultimate goal is to locate the main treasure in order to move on to the next level. Of course you'll have to deal with the hazardous plant and marine life you'll encounter underwater, not to mention keep en eye on your ever-decreasing oxygen supply. You'll also have to make sure to keep a watchful eye on your radar as it will prove invaluable in your search for not only treasures, but also other useful items.

You control your diver using the Wii Remote. Your pointer will determine which direction your diver will swim and offers exactly the type of analogue precision you'll need in order to navigate some of the tricky spots underwater. Holding down the B button will cause your diver to kick his legs and swim at a steady pace, while double-tapping B gives a little speed boost, although this will use up more of his valuable oxygen supply. You'll also have access to a flashlight and spear gun, both of which will come in particularly handy during certain tricky parts of the game. Since you'll only have a limited number of spears with which to work, these should generally be used only when absolutely necessary.

Earning money and upgrading your equipment also play a key role in your success throughout the game, so it's important to at least go after some of the smaller treasures in each level. You'll soon find that your rather limited dive depth and oxygen supply won't cut it for locating some of the more well-hidden treasures, but by upgrading your dive suit, spear gun, oxygen tank and flashlight you'll soon be able to reach parts of levels that were previously inaccessible. Not only does this offer a lot more incentive to go after treasures the first time around, it also adds a nice layer of replay value to the mix as well.

With three levels of difficulty to choose, gamers of any age and skill level should be able to fully enjoy the game. Of course it also doesn't hurt that the game's controls are extremely well-implemented and offer not only a very simple and intuitive control scheme, but some of the most responsive controls you're likely to see in a game of this type. You don't often see this level of play control polish in a WiiWare release, but it really pays off in the finished product.

It is worth mentioning that we encountered a couple of gameplay glitches that kept us from acquiring a few of the smaller treasure chests, but it didn't affect our ability to complete the game's main quest and proved to be rather minor in the overall scheme of things. It is, however, something to keep in mind for those who like to collect everything during their gaming adventures.

From a visual standpoint, there aren't many games with this level of graphical polish on the WiiWare service very often. The developers have put together a very beautiful and surprisingly realistic underwater world that really comes alive on screen. Not only is there an impressive level of detail contained within the surrounding areas, but the fluid animation found in both the marine and plant life is astounding.

The same praise can also be heaped upon the audio presentation, as it's top notch as well. Every musical track in the game is extremely catchy and many are almost hypnotic in the way they seamlessly blend into the flowing underwater scenery. Even the other background sound effects perfectly convey a feeling of actually being underwater, especially for gamers fortunate enough to have a Dolby surround sound system in place.

Conclusion

So many video games nowadays tend to put so much emphasis on action and intensity that it's refreshing to see a developer offer up a more relaxing experience. Taking the very basic principle of exploration, Dive carefully combines precise controls with some amazing underwater level designs to produce one of the most unique gaming experiences seen on the service to date. There are a few minor gameplay glitches along the way, but they do little to take away from what is an otherwise engaging and enjoyable underwater diving experience and one well worth the 1000 Wii Point asking price.

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