Endless Ocean 2, like its predecessor, is a game to play when you don't feel like playing a game. It's a bizarre idea as far as video games go, in that the core gameplay is so relaxed it's the gaming equivalent to whale music. You slowly swim beneath the sea, exploring the sea bed and finding new creatures, all the while being accompanied by the kind of music that will send you to sleep. Fair enough, but does that make it a worthwhile experience?
Yes and no. Endless Ocean 2 is a more action packed game than the original Wii release, but that's not saying much. It features more locations, you can wander about on land for the first time and the diving gameplay is more than just spotting new types of fish, but it's still essentially a man or woman slowly swimming about.
New to the game is Classic Controller support, but given the use of the on-screen pointer (which is mapped to the left analogue stick), the standard solo Wii Remote control scheme is far better. Your diver will swim when you hold down B, so you simply need to point in the desired direction and off you go. If you see something you want to interact with, hover over it with the pointer and press A, while pressing down on the d-pad will bring up your tools and options. It's all very simple.
In an attempt to make Endless Ocean 2 more of a game than its predecessor there's a story of sorts, revolving around two pendants that belong to the family of your boat's captain. His grand-daughter Océane and your character (who is given a pendant after rescuing Océane from a dangerous situation involving a tiger shark) discover that the two pendants join together, revealing a message that has something to do with a mysterious undersea music known as the Song of Dragons. It's all a bit bonkers, but it does provide a reason to go on an adventure that will take you from the South Pacific to the South Pole and even the Amazon.
Mission variety is markedly improved on the original, meaning there's more to do here than simply guide tourists to certain species of marine life. Among other things is the ability to heal fish using some kind of magic gun named the Pulsar. When equipped the sick sea creatures have a coloured reticule over them, and then you zap away as you would in a light-gun shooter. Magically, a few zaps later the fish is healthy again. The same tool doubles as a way to pacify the more dangerous animals, such as a shark that's heading straight for your face.
Salvage and treasure hunting expeditions form much of your other time in the game, in which you need to make use of a multi-sensor. This handy device lets you locate and identify the sunken items you're looking. Your actions are still rarely more complicated than pointing at something and pressing A, but at least it feels as if you're doing more than cataloguing fish - which still plays a part if you liked that about the original game.
By selling some of the items you find on your dives you can build your own reef and fill your tank with the fish of your choosing. There's also a nature magazine to work for, with your underwater adventures being the perfect opportunity to snap some sought after pictures of the most beautiful marine creatures. It's not going to be riveting gameplay for everyone, but there's no denying that Endless Ocean 2 has plenty to do.
A slight disappointment is the land-based gameplay, which allows you to interact with new creatures, but suffers from overly simplistic controls. By using the same point and move system that is used underwater, your character feels a bit cumbersome when compared to other adventure games - a new control system for moving about on land would have been preferable.
Endless Ocean 2's human characters are rather robotic, coming across as slightly higher polygon versions of models from a few generations ago, but the underwater world has been wonderfully created. The Wii can't pump out as many polygons as its console rivals, but that hasn't stopped it from delivering believable sea creatures. There's a real sense of amazement as you encounter wonderful new species, big and small, and some of the underwater caves are truly spectacular sights. It's a shame that the in-game audio is so basic. In a throwback to a forgotten time, human characters don't utter a word, their lips moving along with on-screen text. The relaxing music is also quite irritating, mainly because it's more or less all you'll hear on your adventure.
Animal lovers will get some fun out of training a dolphin to do tricks (but it's not as thrilling as it sounds), and this clever friend will also go out on dives with you, offering a speed boost should you want it. Online co-op lets you dive with a friend, and there's support for the Wii Speak peripheral, making this an ideal way to spend some time with a friend - if they also feel like they want to play a game that isn't really a game.
Whether or not you should buy Endless Ocean 2 is a fairly simple decision to make. If you like the idea of generally not doing much, exploring and looking at lots of sea creatures, dive in. If the idea of shooting a gun at a fish to heal it and not blow its face off sounds bizarre, avoid.