Wednesday, February 24, 2010
"Endless Ocean: Blue World" goes deep
"Endless Ocean: Blue World"
Developed by Arika
Published by Nintendo
The deep blue sea. Her mysterious lure has drawn men for centuries. Despite being unforgiving and dangerous, men are still hooked by her exotic residents, her beautiful sparkling waters and her promise of adventure.
Fortunately for Wii owners, a dive into the deep blue is just a Wiimote away.
Developed by Arika and published by Nintendo, "Endless Ocean: Blue World" is the follow-up to "Endless Ocean," which hit store shelves two years. In the first game, players were allowed an open-ended experience. If a gamer wanted to scuba dive and not worry about progressing, they could do that. If they wanted to snap pictures, that was fine too. However, this time around, Arika is giving gamers multiple tasks to expand the underwater experience.
If you played the first "Endless Ocean," you are familiar with your main base of operations, a yacht. The yacht is gone in "Blue World," replaced by a smaller boat - but the good news here is - the map goes global instead of the lagoon and a huge pond in the first game.
You will save your underwater Kodak moments in your book, check on your discovered species in your encyclopedia and save your progress in your journal. You also have a pet dolphin you can train and teach tricks, a fellow diver and her grandfather (you work for their company) and live on Ninehole Island, which is a small island that's about 100 feet in diameter. On the island, you can change your outfits and gear, radio for supplies (this lady comes to the island on her personal watercraft and sells you a host of wares) and can even bling the place out by buying a hammock, a lawn chair set and other vegetation to make the tiny piece of sand more homey.
The game is essentially all about exploring the deep blue. The first "Endless Ocean" had a narrow focus, which was pretty cool. However, "Blue World" gives gamers the options of traveling around the globe to find treasures and unlock mysteries.
The graphics are updated and look really good for a nonHD game. On a 42" LCD, at 480P resolution (the max resolution on the Wii, unfortunately), the game easily outpaces the original. The game also gives players the sense that they are no longer in Kansas. You probably won't feel like you are in the Pacific, but it tries hard to give gamers one of the most engaging underwater games to date.
Players can also interact with the sealife, just like the first game. You can photograph and feed the fish. There's a few instances on the maps where gamers can surface on an island and also interact with seals. There's nothing to do on the island but walk around and feed silvery minnows to sea lions and dive back in.
You want to play with friends? You can use your Wii's network connection visit your friend's islands and even talk to them with the optional Wiispeak (included in some versions of the game).
However, in "Blue World," players get an offensive weapon to tame and heal wounded fish. The pulsar gun works two ways - it heals wounded fish and can stop belligerent fish from attacking you. There's the multisensor device for finding rare treasures, but the pulsar gun - aka underwater stun gun - and I became best friends. Imagine - m4dskillz, tazing Flipper and Jaws like I was an HPD officer - or like the security officers who tazed that student screaming 'Don't taze me, bro!' Don't get me wrong - it was a lot of fun healing fish, but it can be very hard to aim. Plus, water is a conductor, and tazing animals - in a fluid environment, seems like you're begging for trouble.
Which brings up one of the critical issues I have with the game. The controls definitely take a while to get used to. You will find yourself crashing into sandbars often. It was funny at first, but got frustrating very quickly. You have to keep track of your Wiimote's small pointer, which can get off the screen in a hurry.
Twice, unruly sea creatures, a whale trying to ram me and a shark - got the best of me because I did not have "SA" - situational awareness. And I was nearly sleeping with the fishes trying to fire my pulsar at Jaws. Not cool, not cool.
The soundtrack is "Lord of the Rings" type of tranquil, elevator music. The regulator sounds are way cool and remind you that you have a finite amount of precious oxygen.
The gameplay is confusing at times. I was never really sure what I was supposed to be doing half the time. There's one mission where you need to heal fish that are "acting ill." The warning tells you if you don't finish the mission, it will take a long time to get the opportunity to finish it again. If you return to the boat, you'll have to wait as well.
When I took the plunge, I was distracted and ended up forgetting what I was supposed to do. I paused the game, looked all over for the objectives. Nothing. Then, after taking some way cool shots, I advanced to the next mission and forgot to save the photos. Opps. Just like a digital camera erased by a TSA agent, it's gone, baby gone!
It's a really good experience - and works hard to take players into a mysterious world with exotic creatures. I just wish it was a wee bit more user-friendly with the interface and the controls. However, if you can wade past that, you'll will likely find a gem of a game.
The verdict? 2.75 stars (out of 4) It's a good game that gives you the sense that the ocean is really vast. The numerous sea creatures you will encounter - whales, manatees, manta rays and the like - really add a dose of realism to the game. The graphics are a definite improvement and the added features on land expand the gameplay a bit. However, the controls aren't the easiest to master and the clunky interface sinks this title some. Still, it's worth a look if you are a person who is in love with the deep blue sea.