Every once in a while, a game comes along that you didn't know you wanted. Rawkins Games' Dolphin Up is one such title, providing a surprising amount of entertainment with an extremely simple concept. Being a port of a mobile title from a few years ago, its simplicity comes as no surprise — and, with a few more additions, could have made for a refreshing little experience on Wii U. As it stands, however, this title falls victim to the same trap as many other mobile games: an inability to provide sustained appeal over the long term.
In Dolphin Up you have two minutes to perform as many flips and tricks as possible with your porpoise (yes, porpoises are different than dolphins, but we won't hold that against them). Doing individual tricks won't get you much of anywhere on the scoreboard; you'll need to score a "Nice Entry" by landing nose-first in the water to keep your combo active. This can be quite an addictive challenge at first, especially once you discover just how many different things your porpoise can actually do. It's an impressive amount considering the fact that there's no skate park with multiple gimmicks and objects to expand your repertoire — all you have is some water and the occasional ice floe to bounce on.
The visual appeal of actually becoming proficient at the game is quite satisfying as well. As you gain momentum and catapult your porpoise higher and higher into the sky you'll eventually reach space, passing all of the planets and — if you're good enough — seemingly suspending your dolphin in a black void where there's plenty of time to do tricks. The speed you can reach is hilariously over-the-top too, making it difficult (but not impossible) to comprehend what's going on anymore.
As enjoyable as it is, though, there's not much to do once you've chased the high score on the online leaderboards for a while. When all's said and done, you can see all the game has to offer in less than an hour. It's a shame, since it's easy to imagine the kind of things that could have extended its lifespan: collectible coins to unlock new tricks and stages, combo-breaking obstacles, perhaps a "Career" mode that cumulatively measured your success across several challenges. None of that is here, of course, making the base gameplay — while solid — feel extremely one-note after a while.
Dolphin Up is a joy for the first hour or so — a quirky little title with an addictive and appealingly simple concept. The number of tricks your porpoise can do is impressive, and the visual insanity of pulling off huge combos is a delight. Like many other titles of its ilk, however, it struggles to find ways to keep that momentum going; there's just not much incentive to keep playing once you realize you've seen all there is to see. At its launch price this is one of the better mobile-esque values on Wii U - just know that this one's not in it for the long haul.