Need Valium? Why not try Endless Ocean?

Image by Flickr user Greg Dunlap (CC)
Image by Flickr user Greg Dunlap (CC)

As Kylie Minogue once said, “I can’t get the Wii out of my head.” What? She didn’t…? Oh. Well, maybe she should have, or I should have, or someone should have, because there’s plenty to talk about when it comes to Nintendo’s breakout console of the 2000s. This article first appeared on my blog, Recollections of Play, December 29, 2011.


Our Wii console is definitely the low man on the totem pole in our gaming hierarchy. This is partially due to the fact that, in recent years, we really haven’t had enough space to play any of the frantic, limb-swinging (but not really) Wii games.  So for the past couple years, our Wii has been secondarily a gaming console and mostly an internet device.

Despite my overarching love for Nintendo, I’ve only purchased and played a miniscule fraction of its games. I should be ashamed of myself, but I’m not. I have immensely enjoyed the handful of Wii games that I have played.

But I really don’t know if I should count Endless Ocean among them.

Endless Ocean for the Wii is like the following things:

Your grandmother’s chicken soup.
Hot chocolate with tiny marshmallows.
Sleeping in.
A massage.
Fresh-baked bread.

All these things are good, so it should therefore follow that Endless Ocean is good too.  And it is, until you get phenomenally bored and decide it’s time to actually go outside and see real fish.

Endless Ocean is a diving “game.” You play as a scuba diver out seeking treasure and general knowledge about the wildlife of the seas. (You can actually “pet” some creatures. Good sharky, who’s a sweet wittle sharky?) You are also given the opportunity to hunt through shipwrecks and caves where there are rare species and treasures to find. You have a base ship where you can interact with other members of your “crew” and keep track of your progress. When diving, you have to be mindful of things like your stock of food and air supply.

Air Supply!  That’s what this game is like!

Um, yeah.

Why did we get this game? Let’s see…it came out in 2007. At the time our Wii was still relatively new and the Wii itself still had a lot of inherent novelty. I guess we wanted a game that was different from your standard fare and took advantage of the unique controls. (It’s doesn’t really, but we didn’t know that at the time.) However, we both enjoy ocean wildlife and aquariums, and during the time we were really into watching Blue Planet in HD, so maybe that had something to do with it.

In all respects, Endless Ocean is…um….uh…well, just what is it? It’s bee-u-tee-full, from the backdrops to the animals. The underwater environments are incredibly realistic (for the Wii). Plants and anemone sway with currents. Corals are brightly colored, as are many of the fish that flit, flutter, or linger about. And there aren’t just fish – there are sharks, cephalopods, mollusks, shellfish, penguins, and the list goes on.  All the wildlife looks really amazing.

The game is also so chill. I mean, you can follow the “missions” or just freely swim around. There are no ultimate stingray battles, no hand-to-hand combat with poachers, no predator versus prey situations. Your life is never threatened; there’s no reason to kill and there’s no chance of dying. It’s all so nice, so peaceful, so utopian. And that’s just fine – games don’t need to have violence just for the sake of having violence. I have no reason to hate parrot fish so much that I’d want to stab them. “Playing” the “game” provides a nice respite from the blood, guts, and glory of most other games. And everyone needs a break from all that stuff now and again…right?

But therein lays the problem. What’s a game without a challenge? Making a pb&j is more difficult than Endless Ocean.  I guess you could say that finding the rare stuff in the game is challenging, but that’s doesn’t require skill as much as luck.  (And in my experience, there’s no such thing as luck. Haha.) There are no repercussions if you don’t do the missions. This game, no…let’s call it an activity…it’s like going for a walk in a quiet forest or picking flowers from a dew-swept meadow. It’s so tranquil and calm. It’s awesome and kinda not-so-awesome all in one.

Oddly enough, of the Wii games we’ve owned, Endless Ocean is one of the few we still have. It seems a little wrong to sell back something that’s just so friendly and sincerely wants to teach you something about ocean life. Sure, it’s been…awhile…since I’ve played it myself, and it’s quite possible that we’ll pass it onto someone else eventually so they can get their serenity on. For now, it serves as a reminder than not all games need to involve machine guns, blood spatter, and sexy people. But sometimes it’s a lot cooler when they do.

Dazed and Confused!  Now that’s what this game is like!

10 Comments Add yours

  1. Hatm0nster says:

    Sounds like Endless Ocean is the aquatic equivalent of a walking simulator style of game: great if you enjoy them, but awfully boring if you don’t.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. cary says:

      That’s exactly it. It’s the kind of game that you have to motivate yourself to play, because it’s not going to do it for you.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Mr. Panda says:

    Having played Endless Ocean, I very much agree with you. It’s a soothing, but extremely boring game. Hayley Westenra’s music was pleasant, and the game overall had an interesting ocean. I just didn’t feel compelled to do anything. I’m very goal-oriented in games, and for this game to tell me to just do nothing and relax was crazy. Even Animal Crossing was more compelling for me because I had Tom Nook’s incredible debt to pay. Endless Ocean, however, was just that, an endless ocean of nothing…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. cary says:

      Oh, it’s soundtrack is wonderful! And you’re right, the environment is enjoyable to explore. But being an open world with no means to an end isn’t enough to keep one playing. I like the game in principle — it’s commendable for its efforts to relay info about ocean life, conservation, etc. — just not in practice.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. duckofindeed says:

    Like Mr Panda said, I, too, need goals in my games. I need a challenge, enemies to fight, a world to save! That’s why I can’t play Animal Crossing anymore. There are goals, like paying off your house, but it’s not enough motivation for me. It’s funny because I find gaming a great thing to do when I want to relax, and yet I don’t want to play games that are too relaxing, like Endless Ocean. It’s rather ironic, really.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. cary says:

      I also use games to relax, so I get what you’re saying. It’s sometimes more stressful to play a non-goal-oriented game because you’re *expected* to make thing up as you go along. With goals in a game, you have a path to follow. And sure, maybe that’s limiting, but when your brain needs a break from the random stresses of the day, having a set path to follow can be a good thing. It means that someone else has done the thinking for you.

      Boy, all that sounds really bad when you think about it in terms of life, but it applies to games perfectly! Sometimes, less thinking in games can be more fun. 😀

      Like

  4. Funny timing with this post – just yesterday I was looking at Endless Ocean 2 on the game shop shelf seriously considering picking it up! I didn’t though, and your description of the first game doesn’t sound like my thing exactly. Like you I’m all for variety in the ways you interact with the environment and creatures in it, and non-violence makes a nice change let’s be honest. But I would prefer for that be to tied to goals of some kind. Now I have to research and see if the second game is more… game-y.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. cary says:

      I completely forgot that they made a sequel! I can’t imagine that they would have followed the same formula…bigger ocean? More fish?? Maybe an ultimate stingray battles??? Quite curious now…but not *that* curious, haha. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well maybe not quite an ultimate sting ray battle, but it sounds they like it did change along those lines! Some fish attack you and you have to shoot them with a tranquiliser. And there’s a plot, sidequests and of course new environments. Now I’m regretting not buying it 😛

        Liked by 1 person

      2. cary says:

        If it was titled Endless Ocean 2: Even More Endlessler, I’d strongly consider it.

        😀

        Liked by 1 person

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