EcoQuest: The Search for Cetus (Sierra On-Line) - 1991

This review is part of the “Let’s Adventure!” series. See all reviewed games sorted by rating here.

EcoQuest: The Search for Cetus is an educational adventure designed to teach about the importance of environmental ethics.

The player is cast into the role of Adam, the twelve-year-old son of the famous ecologist Noah Greene. One day, his father rescues a dolphin from an abandoned fish net. As Adam becomes more friendly with the creature, he is amazed to discover that the dolphin can talk! Adam finds out that his new friend is Delphineus, the messenger of the whale king Cetus. As a qualified scuba diver, Adam is chosen to venture into the underwater kingdom of animals known as Eluria, and help its inhabitants.1

EcoQuest uses Sierra’s SCI1.1 game engine, so the typical actions are accessible for you to cycle through (MOVE, LOOK, GET, TALK), but unlike any other Sierra title you also have a RECYCLE action available.

As this is effectively an “Edutainment” title the player is meant to learn as the game progresses, and what Sierra’s trying to teach you seems to be how humans littering and polluting can effect the environment.

All that pollution can’t be good for anything living in the water right?

Once you meet Delphineus, figure out how to get the diving gear and make your way out into the ocean the game really begins. Delphineus fills you in on some backstory, including that Cetus - the Great Whale King - is missing.

He’ll take you to the underwater kingdom of Eluria, but first you need to get acclimatized to the two moving around the game world. Unlike most adventure games that take place on land, you’ll be in the water for the vast majority of this game so you get around by swimming.

This is no different from walking other than on certain screens where you can surface, you’ll also be able to dive back down underwater.

You’ll use this bag a lot throughout the game

As with most Sierra Online games, there is a point system that rewards you for taking various actions as you progress. In EcoQuest one of the main ways you get points is by recycling garbage.

After picking up the garbage bag on the first screen of the game you’ll have a RECYCLE action available for use, which when clicked on a piece of garbage will instruct Adam to dispose of it.

Recycling adds nothing to the game and is just busywork for the player to get more points, but I’m assuming was Sierra’s way of trying to teach kids to be mindful of the environment.

Once you reach the kingdom of Eluria the main plot points will unfold. First you’ll be introduced to the game’s main antagonist, who appears to be a giant manta ray. He just sort of swims by overhead but Delphineus lets you know this is someone to be afraid of.

Second, you’ll learn there’s a prophecy that a child of man would come and save Eluria. How convenient seeing as that’s exactly what you are …

The artwork in this game is excellent, and really draws you into the game world. Even though EcoQuest is more of a “beginner” adventure, it’s very approachable and has a good enough story to entice you to continue playing.

The music and sound effects aren’t great, but aren’t terrible either. The background music samples are typically short, so if you’re on the same screen for a while trying to solve a puzzle it’s very noticeable how often the samples loop.

In the CD version these interactions are fully voiced

If you play the CD version of the game then everything is voice acted, and the voice acting isn’t bad. A number of the characters you’ll meet in Eluria definitely feel like they were inspired by Disney’s “The Little Mermaid”, and the voice actors leaned into their their depictions of these characters pretty heavily.

Though this can come across as campy, I really enjoyed it.

As far as gameplay is concerned, most of the game is just basic fetch quests and item combination puzzles. Every screen plays out about the same as you’ll have to (a) talk to someone, (b) pick up a bunch of stuff, (c) maybe recycle some garbage, (d) maybe use some items.

Unlike other Sierra games, EcoQuest is somewhat unique as there are no unwinnable states and I’m fairly certain you also can’t die.

This is the solution to one of the last puzzles in the game

The item combination puzzles are a bit more difficult, but the game does a pretty good job of shoving the solution in your face - as long as you’re paying attention.

There are no dead ends and no red herrings, so as long as you pick up everything the solution to most puzzles will be pretty obvious as it will typically involving using something or giving something to someone.

To add some variety to the gameplay there are a couple puzzles you’ll need to solve as well. The sliding tile puzzle is a pain in the ass, but if you click the Help button the game will automatically play itself.

Clicking Help repeatedly will just keep sliding the tiles for you until the puzzle is solved, so if like me you really don’t like these types of puzzles you’ll appreciate this type of quality of life feature in the game.

The other puzzle just involves rotating 9 sections of a column in a specific order until they lock into place. This one is pretty straightforward and can be brute forced through trial and error relatively quickly.

Near the end of the game you’ll find some radioactive waste that you’ll need to get cleaned up. This is done by floating a transmitter up to the surface to alert a salvage crew as to the location of the waste.

The solution here is an item combination puzzle which the game taught you about on the first screen of the game. Hopefully you were paying attention …

Once you get that cleaned up Delphineus will be captured by the manta ray and you’ll need to save him. You’ll also find Cetus, who appears to have been harpooned by a sunken fishing boat. You’ll need to save him, which will involve cutting the head of the harpoon off from inside his mouth. Good think you found a hacksaw a few screens back.

You’ll free Cetus, free Delphineus and get into a showdown with the manta ray. Why the manta ray is evil, or what it’s motivation is to torment the citizens of Eluria aren’t really explained, but you’re going to have to deal with him to finish the game.

Stabbing the manta ray with a lion fish spine will stun it enough for Cetus to whack it with it’s tail. I think you ultimately kill the manta ray, which seems at odds with the more pacifist messaging throughout this game.

EcoQuest is definitely targeted at a younger player, and it does a good job of holding your hand through most of the game. The end result is that it’s really not all that much fun to play as there’s limited variety to the types of interactions you’ll have with the game world.

The game is also incredibly short, which may also be due to the target audience.

I’m pretty sure I played this game briefly around the time it came out and didn’t find it all that engaging or entertaining. My opinion hasn’t changed all that much now that I’ve actually completed the game, but I would recommend playing the CD version if you actually want to try this game as the voice acting definitely enhances the play experience.

Game Information

GameEcoQuest: The Search for Cetus
DeveloperSierra On-Line
PublisherSierra On-Line
Release Date1991
Game EngineSCI

My Playthrough

How Long To Beat?2.5 hours
Version PlayedDOS via ScummVM


See here for a refresher on how we’re scoring these games.

Atmosphere (20)10
Story (25)7
Experience (15)5
Impact (10)3


  1. Description from Moby Games 

This post is licensed under CC BY 4.0 by the author.

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