I posted a while back about how much I enjoyed Portal. One of the things I loved most about it was the lack of pressure. Taking the relaxed approach to gaming a step further I have recently been playing Endless Ocean 2: Adventures of the Deep. Don’t let the subtitle put you off though, this is as laid back an adventure as you can get.
I remember at university attempting to play the 60s Mod version of Grand Theft Auto on the PC. As I have mentioned before, my hand-eye coordination and general motor skills are really quite poor. I struggled to control the car, and had tremendous difficulty negotiating corners, let alone avoiding obstacles. A friend laughingly suggested I might get on better with a driving game with no road, no pavements, no pedestrians or really any difference in terrain at all. There should just be a big expanse of space and I could spin around in it to my heart’s content.
Endless Ocean is like playing that driving game set in a giant fish tank. There is an environment which your avatar inhabits, but you move so slowly that it’s almost impossible to have any problems moving where you want to. The game basically consists of swimming around in diving gear, encountering different kinds of marine life. In a bid to introduce a small amount of peril, there are certain points where great white sharks come and attach you. I say attack – they swish you with their tails, and a small amount of extra oxygen is depleted from your tank. At any point you can return to your boat and then start a new dive which means you get to carry on exploring with a fresh tank of oxygen which is good for 10-20 minutes of swimming depending on the depth, temperature of the water and your ‘diving level’.
I haven’t yet played the first Endless Ocean game, but I gather the 2nd game has got a bit more of a structure to it. There is a story of sorts, and lots and lots of side quest action, whether seeking out particular species to photo or spending time playing with the multi-sensor to salvage potentially valuable items from the sea bed. You get points, which can be spent on upgarding equipment and later on changing your avatar’s hairstyle, none of which seem to be misson critical. No grinding away by cutting grass or killing moblins to earn enough rupees to buy magic armour!
One of the things I used to enjoy most in games was fully exploring the field of play, particularly if you got a map which was uncovered square by square as you ventured further into unchartered territory. This game is just the same, so I can dive over and over again in the same area until the map is fully revealed.
Everything about this game is focussed on taking things at your own pace. I would get mildly irritated during my beloved Zelda games when having completed a particular dungeon the dialogue of the non playing characters tried to hurry me onto the next story element. “Hurry up, we have to get to such and such as place before so and so dies!” But I didn’t want to hurry up. I wanted to take some time looking at the surroundings. In Endless Ocean the whole point of the game is to take in the environment. The story mode is there to progress the action, but can be safely ignored until you are satisfied you have exhausted everything else you can do in any particular arena of play.
This is without a doubt the most soothing gaming experience I have ever had, and I love it for that!