Endless Ocean 2: Blue World Review

By Jeffrey Matulef - Posted Feb 26, 2010

Endless Ocean: Blue World offers an intriguing premise that doesn't live up to its potential. Poor writing, painful music, and several design choices constantly interrupt the core gameplay; however, scavenging for treasure in the deep and observing its sea life remains curiously compelling.

The Pros
  • Lots of fascinating marine life
  • Inviting environments
  • Constant reward system keeps things moving
The Cons
  • Horribly talky
  • Terrible presentation
  • Pulls the player out the experience too much

Endless Ocean: Blue World offers an intriguing premise that doesn't live up to its potential.  Poor writing, painful music, and several design choices constantly interrupt the core gameplay; however, scavenging for treasure in the deep and observing its sea life remains curiously compelling.

Endless Ocean: Blue World

"I'd Like to be Under the Sea"

There's an undesirable phenomenon in scuba diving called "the bends" that occurs when you fail to gradually decompress when surfacing. Nitrogen bubbles form in your body, potentially leading to (at minimum) excruciating pain and at worst, paralysis or death.  Arika has delivered Endless Ocean: Blue World, a sequel to 2008’s Endless Ocean. It’s a diving sim with all the exploratory fun and none of the potentially fatal mishaps.  It's a unique experience -- and certainly isn’t as painful as the bends -- though shoddy production values, terrible writing, and several poor design choices have robbed this engaging premise of much of its luster.

Endless Ocean: Blue World follows the exploits of a rookie diver as he (or she) helps an old, crusty sea captain and his granddaughter build up their family business, L&L Diving Service.  Along the way, they find themselves roped into solving the age-old mystery of the "Song of Dragons.”  Laughable dialogue, lackluster plot twists, and preachy messages hobble any potential this may have had as a narrative-driven underwater archaeological adventure.  Worse is that the game is unusually talky, detracting from its main appeal which is diving.

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"Darling It's Better Down Where It's Wetter."

Thankfully, diving is the star(fish) of the show (get ready for more cheesy puns like that in Blue World) and it fares much better.  The core gameplay is comprised of exploring a variety of underwater territories, ranging from expansive oceans, to murky rivers, to deep-sea trenches.  Four different times of day are available for each location which affects what you might encounter.

The crux of the experience comes from cataloging marine life, and there's a lot to file away.  With over 300 species in total, finding them all makes for a compulsive experience.  They're often gorgeous to look at and there's a panel giving info on each creature.  At times, it can resemble an interactive nature documentary.

If finding fish doesn't catch your fancy, there's quite a bit else to do. Missions vary from the story-driven main campaign to a host of side-quests:  There’s guiding curious tourists to specific creatures, photography assignments where you have to snap pictures of aquatic life in action,and hunting for buried treasure.  The latter is accomplished by utilizing a multisensor that uses sonar to detect buried objects.  If you're still looking for things to do, there's a "pulsar" which magically heals smaller fish (yet only pacifies larger predators), and a sea whistle for riding dolphins and whales.  What makes this oddly compelling is that you're constantly given some kind of reward for your actions.  Whether it's a new job title for scavenging or diving, more money to buy better gear, or new quests added to your log, it always feels like you're accomplishing something.

Endless Ocean: Blue World

If it gets dull alone, and you have any friends with the game online, you can opt for some co-op diving over Nintendo Wi-Fi.  The game utilizes Wii Speak for online chat.  Sadly, you can only talk to people, not fish.  No Aquaman fantasies here, folks.  As for the multiplayer, it’s fairly simplistic fare that pretty much plays as promised: you and a friend diving together online, although the party ends once one of you uses up all of your oxygen.

"Don't Hold Your Breath."

It's a shame then that Blue World is constantly interrupting the flow (no pun intended) with cutscenes, text bubbles, menus, and loading screens.  Much of Blue World is needlessly complicated.  For example, some side-quests involve salvage missions in which you must scan the seafloor for treasure, which sounds simple enough.  But to get your treasure appraised, you have to exit the level, go through yet another loading screen to reach the main hub, use your radio to call your mobile shopkeep, then have her appraise said loot to see if it contains your bounty.  If that wasn't roundabout enough, it's a wonder why the designers felt the need to limit the player's time with a depleting air gauge.  Striving for realism is one thing, but then how does one magically warp back to their boat and still not get the bends? 

While the underwater graphics are quite nice  with detailed character models, textures, and animations, the ones above sea level leave something to be desired.  Character models have looked better on Dreamcast, and their lip movements resemble automatons on an amusement park ride.  There's no voice-acting or mumble-speak, which renders the characters even more robotic. It’s a very archaic approach to presentation.

It bears mention that the soundtrack is terrible. It’s filled with obtrusive hippie chanting splayed over tunes that wouldn't sound out of place in a mediocre PSone-era JRPG.  The sound effects when you discover items are irritating as well; they completely ruin the serene mood that the rest of Blue World strives so hard to achieve.

Endless Ocean: Blue World

"No God or Kings. Only Fish!"

Ultimately, Endless Ocean: Blue World is a game with great execution that is undermined by a series of poor and uneven design ideas.  The tranquil act of exploring life under the sea is inviting, and there's more than enough activity to keep players engaged.  But the game flounders (sorry) in its poor presentation. For every moment it allows you to explore at your own pace, there's another when it robs you of control, holds your hand, or makes you jump through hoops.  Blue World is like scuba diving on a leash.  The sights are pretty, but you're not given enough leeway in exploration, making this supposedly "endless" ocean feel rather restrictive.  Though at least you don't have to worry about getting the bends.