Endless Ocean (Wii) review
"Endless Ocean is indeed potentially endless as an experience, though the oceans contained within the game are only endless if we say that they don't 'end' relative to some starting point. In literal terms, they end everywhere they touch a sparkling beach, which happens to be in a lot of places. All I'm saying is that nobody should bring a Lionel Hutz style lawsuit against this game based on its title, because the title is a lovely and evocative one. "
Endless Ocean is indeed potentially endless as an experience, though the oceans contained within the game are only endless if we say that they don't 'end' relative to some starting point. In literal terms, they end everywhere they touch a sparkling beach, which happens to be in a lot of places. All I'm saying is that nobody should bring a Lionel Hutz style lawsuit against this game based on its title, because the title is a lovely and evocative one.
This is a beautifully presented and good-natured game about diving, swimming around coral forests, observing marine life and befriending the occasional dolphin. You and your cool-yet-nerdy marine assistant Catherine will be presented with the odd semi-obligation, such as to photograph a particular fish for a magazine, take a film star on a dive or solve a maritime mystery, but the crux of Endless Ocean is that you don't have to do any of these things. The game offers itself as a freeform diving simulation. You can move your boat to where you want on the waters of Manaurai and dive there for as long as you want, at whatever time of the day you want. All this is achieved just by pointing a cursor at things with the Wiimote, pressing the odd button and making the occasional wiggling motion. The vast number of fish in the ocean are vividly and realistically presented, exhibiting different kinds of behaviour and personalities. You are encouraged to poke, pat or try feeding them to get to know them and identify them for Catherine's journal.
These fish aren't all tiny and cute, either. You'll get the chance to be up close an’ in yo' face with screen-filling manta rays, sharks and even whales. Endless Ocean is a game with no lives, life meters or any negative consequences on offer, and perhaps alarmingly this means you can poke a Great White Shark with your finger without fear of sudden dismemberment. You can also ruffle the haircut of a polar bear who likes to sun himself on the deck of your boat, free – again – of what most people would consider to be the well-founded fear of sudden dismemberment. The relentless yea-sayer in me applauded the game's peaceful attitude, while my inner Donny Don't was thinking, 'I hope the kids don't get the idea they should vigorously poke stingrays.' Some fanciful elements are also included in the environment to add to the romance of the whole situation, such as the underwater ruins, fossil graveyard and pirate ship wreck, but the presentation always remains realistic.
There's also a minigame angle in Endless Ocean involving the training of your dolphin pals, but this is easily the weakest area in the game. It's the one which makes the most cursory effort to lean back towards typical 'gamer' gameplay, and seen in that comparative light, its great oversimplicity is apparent. It's charming the first few times you poke your dolphin and feed it to give positive feedback for performing ever longer stunts (length and variety are the only goals), but that's the whole thing. Poke the dolphin, watch something akin to a stunt cutscene, then feed the dolphin again. Fortunately this whole dolphin training scheme is optional.
Endless Ocean is a positive example of the new school of less goal-oriented / more experiential titles intended to appeal to new audiences in console gaming. Even if your regular gameplaying has programmed you to remorselessly seek out specific things to achieve in a game – which would be the case for ninety-nine percent of us – you will probably find that this underwater world has enough animus in its own right to break you out of your habits at times. I found myself making up little narratives, following one fish and then another into a trench or cave, making sense of the flow and structure of the environment. That I ever forgot about doing any particular purposeful things to progress in the game, and often made up my own story, assures me that Endless Ocean works. Though it must be said I did also bother to do all the things which progressed the game. I just didn't do them in any great hurry.
Community review by bloomer (July 01, 2008)
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