February 7, 2008

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Endless Ocean (Wii)
Arika, January 21
By Glenn "Cage goes in the wata, shaak's in the wata, our shaak" Given production@hippopress.com

They call him Flipper! Flipper! somethingy something!

I’m a fan of niche and budget games and Endless Ocean hits both of those pins nicely. In this free swimming simulation Wii owners glide their rudimentarily customized deep sea diver through all the nooks and crannies of “ze beautiful underzee warld” of Manoa Lai Island. Akin to N64 classic Pokemon Snap the only real goal here is to be in the right place at the right time to see, pet and feed as many fishies as possible. You’ll also be tasked with scouting out undersea artifacts and searching locales for various specific fish by way of on-boat e-mail from some vague oceanographic overlord. These are merely suggestions, though, and for the most part you’re allowed to loaf through the majesty of fish-sploration with all the momentum of a bong-ripped Sunday morning.

Divers can also visit the seas of Wii friends, although communication on dual dives is limited. The ethereal warbling of Hayley Westenra’s soundtrack grates on the nerves in a way that only new age twaddle can, though luckily you can customize your playlist with your own MP3s. The variety of sea life is staggering as day and night visits to locales will offer broad changes in the ecology that will have you smiling as you tick off species in your log book and learn neato facts about each fish.

But a $30 game (although it’s hard to classify this as such — it’s more of an ocean experience) is bound to have a handful of sticking points. For one, there is a dive range that is limited by boat placement, which while thematically and technically neccessary can unduly restrict your urge to wander. Sadly the graphics are merely nice and many HD owners will feel underwhelmed by the spectacle if they’ve ever caught an episode of Planet Earth. Still, Endless Ocean has the awkwardly pleasing effect of soothing the very excitement and hypertension that more frenetic games may instill. For being a refreshing chaser to the harder- hitting imbibe of average gaming Endless Ocean earns a B+Glenn Given