Nintendo are good at spotting potential in a game. Take Chibi-Robo: Bandai were originally at the helm, and it was shaping up to be a bit of a mess, with crude-looking, predominantly brown environments. In stepped Nintendo, who gave it a bigger budget, a load of polish and a lot of love, the end result being one of the last decent GameCube games. The same has happened with Endless Ocean, which started out on PlayStation 2 under the guise of Forever Blue. It wasn’t a bad little game, but previous publishers Capcom clearly didn’t understand the idea like Nintendo.
If you haven’t guessed yet, it’s a scuba diving sim. Forget all about harpooning sharks and wrestling with octopi though – there isn’t a jot of violence. In fact, it’s one of the most relaxing and soothing games we’ve played in a while. If not ever. You can do away with the nunchuk too – the controls have been mapped out perfectly on the Wii Remote alone, not to mention kept simple, so that even your nan can go deep sea diving and explore the depths of the ocean.
There’s no ultimate goal as such, but there are a number of tasks to undertake, from taking novice divers on guided tours – for which you receive a rank at the end – to scouting sunken ruins for hidden treasures. There’s a dolphin that you can befriend and teach tricks to as well, although the majority of the game is spent creating an encyclopaedia of the underwater creatures you discover. Some only need to be highlighted with the cursor and clicked on to be added to your album, while others have to be prodded, rubbed or fed food before you can find out their breed and receive a text-based description.
The PlayStation 2 predecessor featured a rudimentary 2D town; this time round though there’s a 3D boat that you can walk around in a point-and-click fashion. Here you pick up new missions and sightings from your PDA, listen to tracks stored on an SD card via the stereo, lay back in your deckchair and take in the views, and talk to your seemingly aqua-phobic cohort. She might not take to the water with you, but you can dive with a friend via Wi-Fi. Also be sure to check the front deck for visitors – penguins, pelicans and even walruses climb aboard unexpectedly.
If there’s a problem, it’s that it does feel rather aimless. You might be asked to explore a new area and compile a map of the species found, but when back on the boat you’re often wondering what to do next. But with new items – including whistles, torches for night dives and underwater pens – becoming available frequently and eventually the chance to swim with a giggle-inducing sperm whale, there’s always an incentive to return. Plus: it’s only twenty squid. Sorry, quid.