Friday, 5 February 2010

Endless Ocean 2 - Wii

The sequel to one of the Wii’s hidden gems has arrived - and it’s a breath of fresh air on a system which is depressingly becoming full of average software. 
Endless Ocean fleshed out ideas from PS1 cult classic Aquanaut’s Holiday, giving the player a whole ocean to explore at their leisure. The mixture of laid back gameplay, soothing sounds and lovely visuals wasn’t for everyone. However those who dived in were well rewarded with some breathtaking sights, making it the perfect game to kick back and chill out with.

That was two years ago, and I’m delighted to say the sequel improves on the original in almost every area. The first game's open-ended structure didn’t click with many gamers, so developer Arika have given the sequel a bit of direction this time around.

Starting out as a fledgling diver for a small scuba diving company in the Southern Pacific, the tale begins innocently enough, with what amounts to an enjoyable tutorial splashing about in a bright coral reef. Soon, however, you’ll be exploring deep caverns, murky rivers and chilly Arctic basins as you and your small team travel the globe trying to unravel the mysteries of the fabled Song of the Dragons.

The yarn is typical fare for the most part, but it does give the game a sense of purpose. It also draws the player gently along, dishing out new rewards such as a camera and underwater pen as the story progresses. It’s still possible to dive and explore at your leisure between the main plot points, and it’s here where you’ll spend much of your time. Treasures lie scattered about the ocean floor and as each item, fish and mammal is catalogued when discovered, it becomes something of an obsession scouring every nook and cranny.

The control system is identical to the original’s with just the Wiimote needed to play. It’s a comfortable set up and one most people will find easy to get to grips with. The biggest difference here is the area of exploration. The original game limited the player to a small circumference around their boat, with tedious trips back aboard required to move to a new area. Not so with the sequel.

The player is free to explore the oceans, although more care is needed when it comes to you oxygen supply. Another new introduction is a danger meter. The first game carried no hazards, but Endless Ocean 2 arms the player a Pulsar Gun which is used to repel dangerous creatures such as sharks. Strangely, it also doubles as a healing kit to nurse sick fish back to health. It’s one of the game’s weak points, as most players will simply want to explore without the threat of danger hanging over their heads.

It’s also possible to visit islands and secret coves, where land-based animals and birds reside. These excursions offer a nice change of pace and it’s always exciting discovering a new location. You have a base of operations, too, where you can keep track of your progress, get items evaluated, change diving gear, alter the time of day, read up on all the aquatic life you’ve discovered and develop any photographs you’ve taken. All pictures can be saved on to an SD card and uploaded on your PC.

Endless Ocean 2 also features some of the most impressive graphics yet seen on the Wii. While character animation above the water remains laughably wooden, the underwater sights are truly breathtaking. It’s gorgeous, packed with detail and some of the locations you visit are simply jaw-dropping. Coral reefs, shipwrecks, sunken palaces and crumbling ruins are just some of the sights that await.

Endless Ocean 2 is not a short game either. There’s dozens of hours of gameplay packed on to the disc, while online co-op returns to add a splash of longevity.

Those looking for relentless, all-action entertainment should seek their thrills elsewhere, but for gamers looking for something a bit different, Endless Ocean 2 is an underwater paradise.

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