Into the deep blue sea

As a whole, video games tend to deal with a very narrow array of stories, settings and subject matters. Good versus evil. Kill or be killed. Space marines. Zombies. Hack and slash. Blood. Gore. Whatever.

As a whole, video games tend to deal with a very narrow array of stories, settings and subject matters. Good versus evil. Kill or be killed. Space marines. Zombies. Hack and slash. Blood. Gore. Whatever.

Endless Ocean: Blue World has none of these things.

As a follow-up to the eponymous original title, you’re basically just told to explore the ocean. I’m not talking BioShock style, either. You’re not armed with a harpoon gun, depth charges or anything of that nature. In their place you have a scuba tank, documentation materials and (hopefully) a desire for exploration.

Discovery is the nature of your mission in Blue World, which allows you to observe and learn about countless numbers of underwater flora and fauna, everything from squid and sea stars to great white sharks and humpback whales.

Clearly, the aim of the game immediately sets it apart as something that not everyone is going to enjoy, but if you’re a fan of marine studies, you’re in for a treat. Blue World is a lovingly crafted oceanic simulator, the kind of game that aquariums could set up for kids to learn about different species of aquatic life.

The throwback adventure design, based around performing tasks to help sea life or advance the plot, are also reminiscent of the classic point-and-click, edutainment PC games that a lot of gamers (myself included) played the hell out of in their youths, but with the added bonus of better graphics (for the Wii) and some nice RPG elements.

Obviously, first and foremost, you can just swim around underwater, looking at the gorgeously rendered fish (this is one of the prettiest Wii games to date). Examining an aquatic creature with your pointer will bring up a brief encyclopedia entry on it, an educational component for which I applaud the developers.

There are hundreds of species to find, but that’s only one of the things you can do. Aside from exploration of the briny deep itself (which nets you cash you can spend on diving equipment upgrades, customizable furnishings for your private island and types of coral for your own personal reef), there are plenty of other things to keep you busy.

You can heal sickly animals, take photographs, feed certain fish, dive or play with your dolphin, “sing” with whales and scavenge the ocean floor for salvage, to name a few. The game also has a plot, which often involves exploring hidden underwater environs, and even some side quests to keep you busy if you’re interested.

There are also moments of danger, when you have to use a special device to help pacify aggressive animals—the game’s one concession to a more mainstream approach, you might say. Even when your life is essentially at stake, it’s the natural malevolence of nature over the encroachment of man that is causing the threat.

But you’re just trying to learn about this world, and learning to coexist with the creatures that inhabit it. Blue World does have some commentary about human abuses to natural ecosystems, but the aim is more for education than politics, and the message never becomes overt or obnoxious.

Ultimately, the game is really just a love letter to anyone who’s ever held any fascination with the ocean. Just to glide through its uncharted water interacting with and cataloging whatever you find is a joy in and of itself, thanks to the superbly rendered animals and environments.

Swimming around and taking in the sights is still both engaging and relaxing. The soothing soundtrack is sporadically placed between stretches of near silence—aside from the sound of actually being underwater—which adds to the effect. Even the underwater noises and rhythmic inhalation from your oxygen tank are almost hypnotic.

Basically, if you like the ocean, Blue World will probably make you want to quit your job and become a marine biologist, go traveling or at least retreat to a tiny island in the South Pacific where you can scuba dive to your heart’s content.

It’s the kind of game you can play for hours and hours and rarely become tired of it, because there’s always so much more to do or see. Considering how many of us have, at one time or another, probably wanted to be a deep-sea explorer, that’s a powerful thing indeed.