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Many games we play are basically cathartic. Aristotle coined the phrase around 335BC, meaning a huge emotional purge that's supposed to cleanse you of your negative energies and restore your appetite for living. In games, we generally take this to mean an almighty outburst of violence, but it can also be a climax of fear, excitement or tension. It's part of the reason why we all feel good after a bout of Half-Life 2, Resident Evil 4 or even Motorstorm.
Endless Ocean is not a cathartic game. It's bloodless, gutless and shockingly low in tension.
Instead, think of it as a sort of virtual holiday; not the sort where you visit sights or engage in dangerous activities, but the sort where you chill out, take things easy and soak up the sun. The Dead or Alive Extreme games tried something similar, but Endless Ocean does it all much better. Not only is it not composed of a series of useless mini-games enclosed in a rather sorry soft-porn wrapper, but it gives you something worthwhile to do with your time. In this case, you're a new diver joining an organisation that specialises in marine exploration. Based on a small boat, your job is to hang around the sea West of the fictional Pacific isle of Manauri, and have a good nose around beneath the waves.
Here's where the holiday bit comes in. Endless Ocean is not the sort of game that likes to tell you what to do and when to do it. You will receive missions through your handy smartphone - can you go to such and such a spot and check it our, or guide so and so for a dive around the Coral Forest and make damn sure he sees a Humphead Wrasse - but a lot of the time it's up to you where you drop anchor and hop out for a dive. The game has clever ways of hinting where to go next, but the only limits you'll find initially are how far away from the boat you can travel and how deep you can safely dive.
This is pretty cool, because this is a game you can relax into. The controls are based on the pointer functionality of the Wii remote: aim the blue dot on the screen and your diver shifts position to follow it. Press the B trigger and he swims towards the selected point. Press the + button when you're near to a surface, and the view zooms in for added detail. Press A over fish and assorted swimming animals, and you can focus on them, then stroke them until you're able to identify and add them to your creature journal. The controls don't need to be crazily responsive because fast reactions really aren't a factor. No killer sharks patrol these waters. There are no real time limits and you're in no danger of running out of air. You can't get too lost as the boat is always one menu selection away. You can just chill out and enjoy the view.
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