Pros: Meditative, minimal structure, relaxing as much as it is fun
Cons: Interaction with other people in the game, silly plotline
The Bottom Line: There are a few picky problems in the full review, despite this, Endless Ocean is worth the cash. It is more for adults so it shouldn't be a kid's present.
I was getting a bit tired of having elbow and shoulder pains from Wii Sports package. Im a bit of a tennis freak and my joints and muscles seem to take more of a beating from the video game than from the real sport (only my ankles and knees are spared in the Wii version). So it was time to look for something else.
Digging through some lists, I hit on something that seemed odd: Endless Ocean. It is a Nintendo game for the Wii rather than a game built for multiple platforms (Ive played other games for PC and other platforms and they just dont quite mesh as games made for just one platform). The trailer showed some fantastic graphics and I loved the music.
The game is relaxed and played at whatever pace you desire. The goals are to collect all information about all species of fish (something on the order of 200); to work with an aquarium to collect specimens; to guide people who want to explore a particular area, looking for specific fish; to take pictures, or just swim around without goal or care. If you choose the last goal you will be fairly limited to what you can do.
You start with just basic skills, but as you guide people successfully, you gain access to better equipment and better skills (for instance you cannot start diving at night until after you have completed several tasks; you cant dive into sea caves without additional experience). However, you can take as long as you like to gain that experience.
Ill go into the good and great parts about the game before listing the annoying parts. The in-water graphics are very good. It still has more of a cartoon feel than not, but given the enormous variety of the environments and their denizens, some higher end graphic abilities needed to be limited.
The species are real and the information you gain while swimming among them can be as educational as you like. In order to gain full experience for the encyclopedia, you have to interact with the creatures enough to gain 3 levels of information. You do this by petting, feeding, or just swimming with themeach species is different.
The swimming is realistic. At first this is a bit off-putting. Anyone who has played with the Wii controller knows that getting used to it for any new game takes time (those of us used to Xbox, PSx , etc controllers can get peeved until the motion is mastered). It takes a bit of flailing about to swim smoothly. This becomes important as you have to chase either fast fish or very small ones. As with anything, the longer you do it, the better you become, DUH. But the mastery is also something that comes with the kind of constant feedback that makes the Wii so addictive.
The goals for being a guide, photographer, researcher give structure to something that would just be a $30ish blue meditation.
That is why I bought it. I wanted it as a form of interactive meditation. I love water but cannot be in it often or for a living. I can play tennis but cannot play it often or for a living. The Wii offers at least something that can take the place of these desires. For this reason alone, Endless Ocean is well worth the money.
The things wrong with the game are somewhat petty, but taken as a whole, stop the game/experience from being top notch. Loading and unloading the dives takes a very long time. It makes a bit of sense that when you dive into an area that the device will have to spend a fair amount of time loading; it just seems excessive. The unloading (making it back to the boat) makes little sense at all, especially given the simplistic boat experience; this could be dumping the cache, but if so it still seems a bit excessive. Im not an impatient person by nature so this sticks out.
Interaction with humans is terrible. First you have to read everything that Katherine, your boatmate, sayseverything she says is in the manual, but you have to read it allno skipping past her. Her language is childish and the fact that she cannot swim is stupid (there is a plot to this, so I wont go into it); a salty sea captain with no desire to swim would have made more sense. Each of the characters you take on a dive say the same thing regardless of who they are (male, female, English, German . . .). You gain experience and extra equipment as you please them, but reading the same thing over and over gets extremely annoying (plus every time any praise is given, the game stops so that you do a little cha-ching motiona totally unnecessary interruption). Moreover, you can have multiple goals (looking for another species, taking a photomulti-tasking), but this part of the game can often, too often, get interrupted as the person you guide repeats him/herself. This may not sound all that bad, but if you are chasing a fast fish, it is VERY frustrating.
To cut to the chase, the dialog and unnecessary interruptions for silly motions are for the 10 year old set I think. Thats fine, I would just like a way to change a setting that would allow for just a success/failure message rather than the unchangeable childishness.
There is a warning that I can picture but have not yet run into. There is a warning that the ESRB can change. Endless Ocean is an E for everyone game; however, there are sharks, rays, and other potentially dangerous fish. Either you eventually have to fight one, or watch them feed. Either way I can see how it might bother a parent of a 10 year old (I cant imagine a 10 year old interested in this sort of thing being bothered by it at all).
I still have about 80% of the species to understand fully and about half of the map to explore. This game could last weeks, many weeks if you like. I didnt want to wait until I had seen everything (or what I believe to be everything) before writing the review.
Here is the summary: despite the few problems, the game delivers what it promises. It is meditative when you want that and somewhat challenging when you want that. While it is billed for everyone, I think the tween to teen crowd will not look at the game twice unless SCUBA or marine biology is their forte.
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About the reviewer
Paul Savage (cyclone_march)
I name and describe everything and classify most things. If 'it' already had a name, the one I just gave it is better.
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Navigating their way through the depths of the ocean using the Wii remote, players guide their character using the pointer's cursor, visible as a bright blue dot. When players wish to interact with fish or plants they can highlight them with the pointer and press the A Button. By doing so, players discover new species and build up their fish log. Whats more you can also befriend companions like a dolphin which will become your partner and with whom you can train and swim with.