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Game Review

Have you ever gazed longingly at that oversized salt-water aquarium in your dentist's waiting room? Or, maybe, daydreamed about trading in the rat race for the deck of a sailboat adrift on the sapphire South Seas? Then listen closely. Can you hear it? That's the siren song sung by the gamemakers at Nintendo calling you to Endless Ocean: Blue World. It's beckoning you to enjoy an easy-does-it deep-sea-diving vacation—no sunscreen required.

The Wii Waggling Water Is Fine
The story side of this diving tank-clad title starts as leisurely as a wave gently lapping at a sandy tropical beach. Gamers play as a young university student with an interest in South Pacific lore and a chance to get a job with a small diving service. Your first toe in the water takes place as L&L Diving's two main characters—crusty captain Jean-Eric Louvier and his expert diver granddaughter Oceana—give you a quick once-over and then help you gain your Wii remote-waggling sea legs.

Captain Louvier has more than just an underwater job to offer, however, he also has a long history with the legendary "Song of Dragons." Turns out his son died 15 years earlier while trying to explore this sunken city tale. And though the captain wants nothing more than to navigate clear of the deadly mystery, young Oceana is eager to have help in finding the truth behind the legend her dad desperately sought to uncover.

After that simple grab-your-wetsuit-and-jump-right-in beginning, you have a couple directions you can swim. You can, of course, follow through on the main storyline's winding splash-about adventure. That amounts to hours of digging up aquatic artifacts, searching shipwrecks and swimming through gorgeously rendered, realistic-looking depths around the world—from the Pacific to the Antarctic.

If you want to take a break from the mystery, you can explore and sell discovered treasures, and upgrade your equipment at your home base, Nineball Island. You also have the option to accept side quests, such as photography assignments or taking tourists on guided tours. If you just want an educational plunge you can tootle around the big ol' ocean, petting and feeding its inhabitants, and finding out encyclopedic volumes of facts about ocean fauna and over 300 different species of aquatic life.

Nothing Too Sharp-Toothed
No matter what direction you snorkel in, the journey is a beautiful and peaceful glide. Yet the game is rated E10+. The reason is this: Toothy sea critters sometimes decide that your digital swimmer might make a tasty appetizer before dinner. But if you don't want to be avatar tartare, you shake the Wii remote in a quick twisting evasion or use your pulsar gun—which quickly calms the breast of any savage sea beast. (It's a device you also use to heal ailing fish.)

The Song of Dragons lore involves a bit of superstition. And one encountered character is a gambler. But both topics are handled lightly. And the only other oceangoing trials parents might need to help younger gamers with are reading the written dialogue and keeping an eye on the air tank gauge. Players don't die if the air runs out, by the way. You're just sent back topside to try again.

See … thanks to Nintendo, you no longer have to brave the dentist's drill just for a chance to hang out with your favorite clownfish. Or buy a really expensive sailboat.

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February 23, 2010

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Bob Hoose Rachel Simpson

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