Nov 13, 2007
Barely three months after we got hold of the Japanese version of this supremely relaxing piece of videogame art, here's the UK version. Polished up slightly, in so far as it no longer features the crashtastic glitch that made us avoid the Aquarium mode, it's otherwise exactly the same beautiful and evocative experience we've been enjoying since August.
The aim is to explore a fictional sea that's like a condensed version of the BBC's Blue Planet series. Practically every aquatic creature you could think of is packed into its crystal-clear waters, from awe-inspiring whale sharks to shoals of colourful little things; friendly dolphins to strange, bottom-dwelling beasts that defy description but would probably taste lovely on toast.
Endless Ocean's chief appeal is the chance to see things usually reserved only for the eyes of marine biologists and wildlife documentarians. And because it's so convincing in terms of its graphics, control and overriding atmosphere, it's a richly rewarding experience.
The game is as simple as you could wish for. You just pop into the cabin of your huge yacht, point at the steering wheel and place a marker on an unexplored portion of the map that pops up. A skippable cutscene later, you're at your chosen location, ready to meet some interesting fish.
Diving is easy. Just point your Wii remote at where you want to go and watch your scuba-person glide gracefully through the water. Most of the time you'll be swimming in the pleasant shallows over sun-dappled coral reefs, the fishy residents of which will regard you with indifference. But if you're lucky, you'll chance upon a sublime piece of natural architecture, such as a cave system filled with spindles of rock, or a forest of coral spires, or a fissure that reveals a route into a bottomless and heart-thumping darkness.
To say it's a nice-looking game is an understatement, on a similar scale to "Twilight Princess takes a while to finish" or "Mario Strikers online makes us a bit upset." We could happily sail the ocean for hours, swimming with turtles and gaping at whales, with no objective other than to take pretty pictures with the camera, but there's an actual adventure in there as well.
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