If you have always wanted to go scuba diving but haven't, here's your chance. Endless Ocean offers two different kinds of game play: unstructured underwater exploration and a series of directed oceanic challenges. If you just want to scuba dive, you can. As you swim around this "Endless Ocean" you will not run out of air, you can't get hurt, and there are hundreds of fish to meet and learn about.
If you seek purpose for your diving, the game has a gentle story line with many missions. You can give customers scuba lessons, explore and map out specific locations, or hunt for a particular species of fish. You can even take underwater photos for a magazine or search for valuable treasure on the ocean floor.
The game takes place in Manoa Lai Sea, a fictional ocean, where you are assigned to a marine biology research boat. You start by designing the look of your diver from a very limited avatar-design menu. The boat is captained by a scientist named Katherine who mentors you about the boat and how to dive. If you want assignments, they come to you via email found in the boat's cabin. You are free to dive anytime.
The core gameplay occurs while underwater. You can find different creatures by diving in the same area at both night and day, or by moving to different locations. There are coral reefs, tide pools, and ancient shipwrecks for you to explore. The visuals are very realistic as you weave your way around coral reefs to find new schools of fish or perhaps a dolphin or whale.
The Wii controls make swimming underwater easy even for kids as young as five years of age. As you point the controller at the screen, a white dot will appear. You point the dot in the direction you want to swim and then hold down the "B" button to swim there. If you see a fish, you can point at it and click the "A" button to interact with it. While it seems a little silly, you can then "pet" the fish to learn more about it. Other options for interacting with fish include feeding and taking photos. After you have interacted long enough with a fish, it will sparkle to indicate you have learned enough to identify it and it is added to your encyclopedia of fish.
While you are diving, you are accompanied by the music of Hayley Westenra; but the game provides you with the option of adding your own music using MP3 files on a SD card.
The game also has a two-person option which involves using the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection after exchanging friend codes. However, it would have been better if two could swim together using two remotes on the same screen.
For families looking to introduce children to the wonders of the sea, this is an excellent choice. The underwater graphics make you think you are there, and navigating the game is easy. You can meet and learn about 230 animal species, and can even train a dolphin to do tricks. You are never in danger, even when sharks are present, and you don't have to worry about running out of air or getting lost. Returning to your ship is just a push of a button away. And unlike many Wii games, which cost $50, this one is only $30. However, while there is always something new to see, take frequent breaks or the diving can become tedious.
If you don't have a Wii, a similar experience is available in Sea Life Safari, a downloadable PC game that is available at www.SeaLifeSafari.com.
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