As engrossing as Endless Ocean can be, it has a lot of faults that some people simply won't be able to look past. The controls are fairly easy to learn, but keeping the remote pointed at the screen gets old quickly, and every once in a while the pointer freaks out, turning your diver around and causing you to lose your bearings. Most of the time it's easy to reorient yourself, but it can be very difficult when you're in dark water or a cave, and your map isn't much help. Though there are some interesting places to explore, there are a lot of empty, bland areas as well, so after a while the diving can feel repetitive--especially if you're playing for long stretches at a time. Learning about fish by petting them is kind of silly, and it gets tedious once you've learned about most of the fish but still have to at least click on them because many fish look the same. There's also no real danger. Some people will enjoy not having to worry about running out of air, decompressing, monitoring surface time between dives, or the fact that petting a shark you know nothing about is perfectly A-OK. Others will find the lack of any sort of danger boring.
If you love the game and want to share the experience with a friend, or you're not enjoying it and want to try to spice things up, you can dive with a partner. Unfortunately, both those who love and hate the game will likely be disappointed by its multiplayer aspect; it's difficult to set up and not very rewarding once you've joined another diver. First, you'll need to get your game-specific friend code and send it to a friend so he or she can add you. Then you've got to get your friend's code and add it. Finally, you have to arrange to be online at the same time and figure out who will be visiting who. Once you're on the same boat, basically all you can do is dive together, so you jump in the water and follow one another around while looking at fish--just like the single-player game, except you can't advance the story at all. You also can't communicate much, either, outside of some simple one- or two-word phrases that can be displayed by tapping the D pad.
Endless Ocean's presentation is uneven. Sometimes it's extremely beautiful, such as when you're exploring a rainbow-colored reef and an enormous blue whale appears from the ocean's depths and gracefully glides past. Most of the fish and other forms of sea life look and move realistically, and there's a lot of variety to them. The way the sunlight dances off of the water and shines through crevasses to illuminate the ocean's floor is also impressive. There are plenty of beautiful moments, but there are many others that are not so beautiful. Sometimes you'll find yourself swimming over endless sand and rock terrain, where one area is indistinguishable from the next, and with no fish in sight. The visuals are also distinctly better underwater than above. This is a good thing, given that it's a game about scuba diving, but it's also a bad thing because you spend a lot of time on your ugly, aliased boat while looking at ugly, aliased landmasses.
â€¦and at other times not so captivating.
The game's soundtrack, which sounds a lot like Enya or something you'd hear in a spa, is generally off-putting, but occasionally it manages to make the moment, such as when "Amazing Grace" plays as you glide through the water on the back of a humpback. If the included tunes aren't your cup of tea, then you can play mp3 files from an SD card, but you should at least give the default soundtrack a listen before you decide to dive to the soothing sounds of Rancid.
Endless Ocean is worth a look for anyone interested enough in the game to read the review. Sure, its pacing is often painfully slow, and you'll see most of what there is to see in a few hours because the ocean isn't quite as endless as the title indicates. Nevertheless, when Endless Ocean is at its best, it's soothing, beautiful, fun, and unlike any other game out there.