The latest title to grace the Wii as part of Nintendo's Touch Generations series of games, designed to appeal to a broad range of players who might not necessarily have grown up with a controller in hand, is Endless Ocean. As the title suggests, Endless Ocean sees you becoming a diver, working alongside a marine biologist to discover new species and find out information on all the creatures living in the sea. It's about as sedate as gaming gets these days, and in many ways could be classed as an interactive relaxation session, but should you lose yourself in its calming waves?
As is the way with games designed for everyone, Endless Ocean uses only the Wii Remote to control everything. Your boat acts as a hub of sorts, allowing you to point and click to access the options, helpful hints, the boat's wheel (which allows you to move around the ocean), your email (which oddly seems able to send real life objects) and numerous other tools. Other than the way your character awkwardly moves around the boat, in a fashion best described as robotic, it's all very nicely done.
When you're ready to dive, which usually follows a new email or some instructions from your female biologist friend, you simply choose dive from a menu, and you're off - after a pause for loading. It's not what you could call seamless, with the underwater world being complete separate to the world aboard your boat. Anyway, other than when you must spend time on the deck, such as to train your dolphin friend, you'll want to spend the majority of the game swimming through the depths of the ocean.
When diving the controls are incredibly simple. You point the Wii Remote in the direction you want your diver to go and hold B - that's it. If that's too much of a hassle for you, the game even includes an auto-swim option, meaning you don't even need to hold down the B trigger. Each dive is limited to a fairly small area surrounding your boat, but it's enough to spend considerable time in. At the start of the game you're limited to diving during the day, but soon enough you gain access to the night-time diving gear, complete with torch.
When underwater you can pretty much do as you wish, unless you're on a diving mission to show a client a certain species. When you encounter a fish you press A when your pointer is over it, which then focuses your view on the fish (or larger animal, such as a shark). From here you can stroke the creature using your jelly-like hand or prod it. It's slightly odd, but doing this somehow makes you learn new information about the species.
As well as fish, the underwater world is full of lost items that are waiting to be found. When you are near such an item the game makes it quite obvious. It's this treasure hunting that gives the game some spark, and something above the mindless roaming around for new species. The game also excels in showing you new areas, which seem to come out of the darkness and wow you with their beauty.
Beauty is of course relative, with the visuals in Endless Ocean being a rather mixed bag. Close up a few of the coral reefs and structures look good, but fish vary in their detail and character models are blocky. Animation is also rather poor, which, considering there aren't that many, is rather unacceptable. The fact that most of the game has a draw distance of a few feet makes the lack of detail even harder to take. Endless Ocean is far from ugly, but it's not nearly as pretty as it could have been.
Music is where you're likely to feel the chill-out the most, with the game's tunes being among the most cheesy and soothing you're likely to hear this side of Ecco the Dolphin. You can also use your own MP3s stored on an SD memory card if you want to relax to some tunes of a slightly different flavour. It's a nice touch and something that's perfectly suited to the game.
Endless Ocean is a game that goes out of its way to ease the player into its world. It's so calm and relaxing that at times you'll wonder if you have a pulse, only to suddenly spring back to life when something catches your eye - be it a massive shark or some sunken treasure. As a pure game Endless Ocean will leave many gamers wondering when things are going to kick off, but if you're happy knowing that things never will, this diving sim might be for you.