Endless Ocean Review

Endless Ocean for the Nintendo Wii is the type of game that is likely to have just two groups of critics. There will be those who fall in love with the game’s sense of freedom, open-endedness, relaxing pace, and relative absence of objectives and rewards, and those who come away saying, “well, what the heck is the point?” – using varying levels of vulgarity.

The point of Endless Ocean is basically just…to chill out. This is a game about jumping on a sailboat and cruising out over blue waters, diving into the depths of the ocean and observing nature’s beauty. It’s really the videogame version of what one might wish for while they are shackled to the daily rat race of a 40-hour work week in a climate that more closely resembles the Arctic than the Pacific. One option even invites players to lay back in a lounge chair on the ship’s deck and just “gaze at the ocean.”

Most of your time with Endless Ocean will be spent underwater, navigating rock and coral formations while interacting with the various forms of sea life. You will also be able to go topside, where you can interact with your ship-mate, choose a new dive location, change equipment, examine the treasures you’ve discovered on the sea floor, make an album of the photos you’ve taken, read up and learn a few facts about the creatures you’ve encountered, and even train a few dolphin friends. E-mails that arrive via the ship’s PDA serve as a gentle guide, suggesting new dive locations, alerting you to specific submarine events, requesting that you host one-on-one dive sessions, or asking for a few snapshots of certain fish. In the end, though, the choice of whether or not to make use of them is entirely up to you.

The freedom and simplicity of Endless Ocean also extends to its very manageable one-handed control scheme. Swimming is as easy as holding the B button and pointing in the direction you’d like to swim. You can touch and pet fish (which is pretty ridiculous, if you ask me) using the A button, and the item and options menus are accessed with the D-pad. There is very little to remember here.

As you explore, you will notice that the undersea vistas range from completely drab to arguably breathtaking, although one has to wonder why the technical end of the game’s visuals wasn’t improved beyond its current state. Even on the Wii, things could certainly be sharper, more detailed, and just plain better-looking. Zooming in on things provides a clearer picture, but the discrepancy between the zoomed and un-zoomed views seems a bit drastic. For a game that is almost 100 percent about the sensory experience, one would think that top-notch graphics would be a priority. As it stands, Endless Ocean does very well with art direction, but the joy of the dive is somewhat dampened by the unrefined graphics tech.

As for aural pleasures, the soundtrack is comprised of soft tunes selected to fit the game’s low-key atmosphere. These few tracks work for a while, but soon become played out. You’re bound to wish for the ability to pop in your own music to swim to, which the game so kindly allows you to do. Any mp3 files loaded via the Wii’s SD slot are available as background music, although the game will only play one song (on repeat) at a time, rather than shuffling through the contents of the card. In my personal experience, I opted for some classical piano, which kinda made me feel like I was being sung a lullaby while getting a back rub and foot massage all at once. I guess I got the point, but I would have really liked it if changing tracks wasn’t a manual affair.

That’s about all there is to Endless Ocean. It is a sandbox, or more appropriately, a water-box experience. For what it set outs to accomplish, it is a definitely a success. If you are the kind of person who needs clearly defined, objective-based gameplay, stay as far away from Endless Ocean as is possible, but if you are looking for a bit of a break from standard fare, you might like to give it a try.


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Author: Eddie Inzauto View all posts by
Eddie has been writing about games on the interwebz for over ten years. You can find him Editor-in-Chiefing around these parts, or talking nonsense on Twitter @eddieinzauto.

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