Hey, have you heard the one about the dolphin with a laser beam attached to its head who must battle enemies on his way into space in an effort to save the Prime Minister who has been abducted by aliens? Oh, you haven’t? Well, neither have I, but that is the awesomely absurd premise in Dingo Games’ appropriately titled Laser Dolphin, which appeared on Mac and PC a few years back and is now making its way to iOS. I’ve had a preview copy of the game for the past few days and have been enjoying it a lot so far, not just for the crazy story but for the solid underwater action and fun variety of modes it contains.
At first blush, Laser Dolphin may look like Ecco the Dolphin with guns, and that description wouldn’t be totally far off. The game is presented in a 2D side view with levels filled with corridors to explore. You can also launch above the surface of the water to leap over barriers and gain access to new areas, or even perform tricks in the air. On the most basic levels, Laser Dolphin definitely has a few things in common with Ecco the Dolphin.
The big difference is the various weapons your dolphin can equip that turn him into a one-mammal army. You start with a standard laser which is fired by tapping directly on enemies. You can also hold down on the screen to charge the laser and unleash a much stronger blast. As you progress in the game, you’ll come across several other weapons, like homing missiles, a rapid fire gun, and an awesome lightsaber-esque Laser Sword which attaches to the dolphin’s head and cuts through enemies like butter while also deflecting incoming fire.
Laser Dolphin will come equipped with a 50 level campaign that takes place across 4 planets as you attempt to rescue the kidnapped Prime Minister. There is also a 10 level Stunt mode where you can earn medals by performing tricks in the air for points within a given time limit. Then there is a 10 level Race mode where you attempt to pass through every ring laid out in a level as quickly as possible in order to earn medals. The Campaign has been a blast to play through, but I was surprised by how much fun the Race and Stunt modes are as well. Game Center will also be included with leaderboards and achievements.
One problem I’ve always had with Ecco (and especially with the sub-par iOS port), is that it can be a tricky game to control. Laser Dolphin doesn’t suffer from this problem, as the virtual control stick works very well for maneuvering your dolphin and tapping enemies to shoot is a breeze to pull off. In fact, the tap-to-shoot might be a bit too easy, and I’d like to see some sort of alternate control scheme where you actually have to aim you shots to add a bit of skill to the combat. A dual-stick method would seem perfect for this, but the default scheme is still totally serviceable.
Besides that small quibble, I’ve been enjoying my time with Laser Dolphin. Dingo Games will be releasing the game for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad and are hoping to have the games available in early May depending on Apple’s approval. We’ll take another look at Laser Dolphin when it launches in a couple of weeks, and in the meantime you can download the free demo of the game for Mac or PC for a taste of what's to come.