With the exception of one episode of The Simpsons, I've never encountered an evil dolphin in any game, story or programme. Dolphins are always doing good. One suspects they are up to something. Here we have another heroic dolphin, the titular Finlay, out not just to save his friends but also to raise cash for our real-life coral reefs. That's some dolphin.
Finlay is assisted and directed by his friend, Leon the Lobster. The pair are out to save their sea creature friends, who have come down with some unfortunate condition. Could their illness and violent behaviour be due to the strange leaking crates of toxic waste that have been dumped in the area?
And so we have Finlay's Fathoms, a delightful quest through undersea realms filled with mystery and action. Guide Finlay through underwater caverns, using your spells against the attacking sealife in order to free them from their ailment (rather than killing them, which is a nice touch). Along the way you can collect treasures which may or may not be of benefit to Finlay's powers. Every level you will face a different task, be that to destroy leaking crates, chase off fishing boats or simply find the exit.
Finlay is operated by mouse. Click the left button to have Finlay swim in that direction, or hold down the right button to fire a blast of whatever spell you have selected. Keep an eye on your temperature gauge - if Finlay is too cold, he can't use fire spells (and if too hot, he can't use ice spells). Click on the appropriate screen buttons to adjust your inventory or level up your abilities.
Finlay's Fathoms is a beautiful game. The ocean teems with life - both enemies and friends swim around the caverns, along with lots of tiny fish (which can be eaten to restore lost health). Animation is smooth and colour changes are used to signify status changes (like being frozen or injured). Indeed, the only area where the graphics seem rather weak is the game menus, which look a little primitive in comparison. Overall, however, the graphics are large and clear - ideal for the children that Finlay is targeted at.
Sound is also good, with a range of sound effects for different attacks and more. The dolphin chirrup that Finlay makes when you click on him is a nice touch too! Music tracks are good and fit the setting rather well but they can get repetitive over time. Both sound effect and music volume can be adjusted in the main menu's options
Playability is very intuitive, which is fortunate as Finlay comes with no manual. Not even a readme. Hopefully this will be rectified soon, if it has not been already. My biggest criticisms of the playability are that the various treasures you pick up are not well explained and that picking up treasures / destroying crates can be very fiddly. Leon and other friends also have an irritating habit of swimming under your mouse cursor and starting conversations when you were trying to move there. Otherwise, playability is very strong - simple, sensible controls and no actual death. If you run out of energy, you can either restart that level or continue at the cost of half your experience.
Finlay's Fathoms has a lot of levels - far more than this reviewer has been able to complete in the time I've had to spare! - and a lot of sealife, so this is a game with plenty of depth (no pun intended). It can get a little samey after a while but as long as you complete each level in one sitting you can always quit and come back later.
Overall I've been very impressed with Finlay's Fathoms. A combination of beautiful underwater imagery and simple, fun gameplay should keep a lot of younger players interested for a while. Well done Finlay, and well done Coral Tree Productions!
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