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Endless Ocean: Blue World

August 9, 2010

“The tree hugging hippies ultimate wet dream. Prepare to swallow a bucket load of guilt.”

Violence is a mainstay of the gaming industry, mainly because you can live out your sublimated violent urges in the comfort and anonymity of your couch. This is what makes gaming popular and also what brings it into disrepute with all the pontificating windbags looking for deeper meaning behind the real violence of the world.

But Endless Ocean 2 proves that violent graphic gore need not be a part of the gaming experience for it to be an enjoyable one. In fact, it goes so far to prove this point that it is to the detriment of realism and actual entertainment of Endless Ocean 2. It becomes patronising.

So what is EO2 all about? It’s a passive gaming experience where you dive and swim around the ocean doing a variety of mundane tasks. These include collecting coins, finding treasure, completing lots of side quests, giving diving tours, healing injured animals, taking photos of marine life and training certain animals in order to display shows.

Exploring is also something you’ll be doing lots of, but can only be done once. After that you’ll be going over known territory or finding animals you’ve already catalogued. This is the essential part of the game and is perhaps the best aspect of it. The controls are simple and easy to use, point and click to swim in the desired direction. Navigating menus is a pain sometimes though as there is no way to quickly select certain tools. For example, if you get a shark attack warning you have to go into your menu, select your pulsar tool and then start looking around for your attacker. By this time, you’ve already been attacked so usually the safer option is to swim away, select the tool and then come back into the area, which is annoying.

There is also a storyline about the Song of Dragons, which in essence is an extended tutorial and introduction to each area of the game. The story is rather silly and not very realistic, which is what prevented me from really enjoying the main storyline and rushing through it. It will take around 10-15 hours to complete before the rest of the game opens up to play allowing you a passive gaming experience few other games can boast. You’ll probably get another 100 hours of gaming out of it before you get bored.

Mind you, most of those hours is spent “free training” your partners for your marine shows. Free training is a great option where the dolphins train themselves and you can turn off your TV and go make dinner or do other tasks in the meantime.

The whole aspect of marine shows never worked for me because the feedback you get from your audience never matched the overall rating you’d get from a show. For example, you could do all the tricks requested and get a standing ovation for every trick with a “That’s EXACTLY what I wanted to see,” and still get a sub-par rating for the show afterwards. It seems the concept needed to be worked over a bit more to get smoother game play experience.

Diving is what this game is about and it certainly delivers a smooth and rewarding diving experience with EO2. You’ll spend hours swimming around hunting for treasure with your underwater metal detector (though it also detects stone and wood) and even more time trying to find all the bits and pieces you need to complete your collections.

It is while diving that you’ll encounter the biggest problem with this game, the lack of violence. In EO2 there is no violence at all, this include predation! Sharks don’t bite, leopard seals swim fancifully with penguins in complete blissful harmony, in this ocean everyone gets along. Apparently the cause of all injury and sickness in the ocean is of course humans. You’ll be inundated with requests to go heal sick fish and turtles that have gotten sick because of mankind and have to endure a plethora of condescending social commentary from a 15 year old NPC. There is nothing better than being lectured by a 15 year old girl about environmentalism.

So when swimming, you’ll still be attacked by some “dangerous” creatures like sharks, but they wont bite you or draw blood in anyway, they will tail slap you and the only way to get rid of them is to shoot them with the “pulsar” gun. This is the same gun you use to heal all the injured and sick animals that wicked mankind has nefariously maligned. How that works logically is apparently beyond my capabilities of reasoning.

Perhaps if they’d allowed for predation the game could have been more like a underwater simulation and held my attention for longer than it did. Or perhaps it’s just my blood-lust and nature to want to see the oceans being destroyed and burnt. After all, I am the evil human that shoves plastic bags down hapless sea turtles mouths.

While exploring the oceans, you’ll also be able to go ashore and catalogue land animals. However you interactions with them are severely limited. As an evil human I wanted to bash the little marine iguana with a stick, but sadly the game wouldn’t let me. It seems these near shore areas are restricted in action, all that takes place under the waters.

This game is great for kids who you don’t want to interact with. Put them in front of this game and they wont move for hours on end. It does require a basic reading ability to enjoy, a warning label that I found particularly hilarious because if you don’t possess this ability, how can you read the warning?! In fact, I’m still toying with the idea of returning the game and watching the salesperson try to explain it to my amusement.

The graphics in this game are fantastic with long vision and drawing depths. There is pixilation when you get up close, but only on the sea floor and on rocks, animals are rendered in much greater detail. The music is a little lacklustre and bland, with a few keynote songs being repeated until you’re sick of them. There is also no music sound options that allow you to turn off annoying sounds like the breathing sound, which gets really annoying really fast.

A problem I had with the game was with items. There isn’t that much to collect and most items you gain won’t alter your swimming speed or abilities. They are restricted to aesthetic value mostly. Even though you get to run your own aquarium, it becomes boring very quickly because there just isn’t much to do in it. You can’t pour money into the place to make it more exciting, you can’t paint the walls or change the layout (beyond what is in the tank display). Essentially it’s just there to soak up time while you’re waiting for visitors so you can finish certain missions. This is a massive waste of potential entertainment to me.

Despite the horrible bloodless nature and finger-pointing of this game, it is still definitely worth a purchase because it shows what the Wii is capable of graphically and that violence doesn’t necessarily need to be part of a good game. There also aren’t many diving games available, so when one comes along and gets it right, it’s best to not let this little number escape without a purchase.

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From → Wii

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