I've been playing games pretty much ever since I can remember. My very first game was Donkey for our Amstrad, followed immediately by Bill Williams' Alley Cat. PC games were a huge influence when I was younger, meaning I played through a lot of great adventure games from Sierra and LucasArts. And of course, 2D platform games, like Commander Keen series (some of my favourites) and Epic's Epic Pinball series (with Enigma being the coolest).
When I was 10, I got my very first Nintendo system, a Game Boy with Tetris, earphones and a link cable. (You know the set.) Played that thing everywhere, I did. My second game, of course, was the surreal but fun Super Mario Land, with Superballs, turtles that EXPLODE when you jump on them, a Mario submarine, and facing off against a SPACE ALIEN at the end.
Truly, it was a work of art.
For a while, I worked for a website Planet GameCube, writing Aussie news and doing game reviews for stuff that people didn't want to touch, like Disney's that's SO Raven and Herbie's Adventures in Monte Carlo: GBA Edition. I also used to write a lot for a website called The Rubber Chicken. That was great fun - highlights include solving the Mystery of the Grimace (we deduced that he's a giant beetroot) and an amazing exposť on Shredder and Krang (as well as Shredder's mother) being the cause for global warming, which turned out to be so popular that the site ran out of bandwidth. Great times.
Having released a puzzle game called MacGuffin's Curse, where you can turn into a redheaded werewolf and freak out bikers, I've now got to decide where I go from here.
It's hypnotic. I keep finding that I keep coming back to a game recently. This Wii game sounds like it should be incredibly dull, and bland, and certainly not frightening. How fun could a game based around diving into the ocean and looking at stuff be?
Pretty compelling, actually.
For those 99% of you who (understandably) probably skimmed over this on the massive wall of Wii shovelware, Endless Ocean 2: Adventures of the Deep (or Blue World in the States) is a game where you dive into the ocean, swim around different seas across the world, map them out, and search for aquatic fauna (and TREASURE!) Now, a game where you swim around in the water looking for fish may not seem like Game of the Year, and to be fair, the opening is rather slow, handholding, and has one of those enforced tutorials that seems to go on for a third of the game ("Would you like to learn how to swim?" Yes/Yes). But, stick with it, because once you push past the initial introductionary stuff, the game just explodes with content. Before you know it, you'll be:
* Mapping out new areas and selling off completed maps for massive profit
* Salvaging junk from the ocean floor and getting it evaluated and added to your treasure catalogue
* Following up on rare treasure rumours that lead to more adventures
* Search across the world for various species of fish, dolphins, sharks, whales, and tiny coral life
* Manage and maintain an aquarium to encourage more visitors
* Training dolphins and putting on dolphin shows
* Discovering thought-to-be-extinct species of fantastic, majestic and terrifying creatures
"Okay," you might say. "So this sounds pretty fun. But virtual water and polygonal fish being scary? Get a grip. Also, you smell." Well, there's no need for that. You didn't even let me get a word in. And what's with the personal insults? Honestly. So quick to judge. But yes, you're right. By all rational logic, there's no reason why this game should be scary. Except... well, when you get to the second ocean, Ciceros Strait, you encounter the ocean with the most sharks in the game. It even boasts about it the first time you dive in, during the load screen. So that's not a great help. Sure, some of them, like the Grey Nurse Shark and Hammerhead don't actually attack you. But then, while exploring... well, a sign pops up saying "DANGER" and you hear a slow but tense wail.
Which gets faster. And faster.
Oh yes, did I mention that you have to go diving at night as well, when there's poor visibility, and twice as many sharks? Most sharks can be calmed by your super magic animal healing gun, but there is a gigantic shark that prowls Ciceros Strait called Thanatos. He is huge, unstoppable, and part of a story event, so you have to encounter him. And even when that event is over, it won't be the last time you encounter him, either. He remains in the Strait. Now, there is no logical reason why you should be scared of these sharks. They don't instantly kill you, they don't bite you. Despite the look of that terrifying picture up there, all they do is tail whip (Diver's defense was lowered!), which removes some of your air. This is pretty bad at first, as you can lose air pretty quickly from attacks if you're not careful. But by the time you've played for a bit, your experience will go up, increasing the time you can dive, and you'll be able to buy upgrades that assist your diving too. I'm past the main story, and air is no problem.
Yet that warning still fills me with dread. And I'm not the only one to experience this phenomenon, either. Looking on the GameFaqs boards, there was an entire topic dedicated to this! This post I think summed it up the best:
i'm with the OP -- the shark attacks in this game give me dread like few other things in video games have.
and it's completely disproportionate to how *little* getting attacked matters -- a few notches of air. even the dread Thanatos just tickles you a little, then you can continue on (or teleport back to your boat).
i guess it's a reflection of how engaging this game is: you're not on your sofa, you're THERE. in the water.
with freakin' SHARKS!
It's pretty impressive how immersive Endless Ocean 2 can get. Knowing that a shark is nearby can make you really tense up, encountering a strange creature like a pelican eel or a basking shark really stops you in your tracks and makes you go "Wow....". It's incredible. But the creatures themselves aren't the only things that affect you. If you've seen Finding Nemo, you'll probably remember that shot near the start of the movie, where Nemo and his friends are hanging around near the edge of the Drop Off:
A shelf that just literally disappears into nothing. Now imagine that instead of those tiny fish there, it's your player character. And that you have to swim out there. Because you have to map out the entire area. One of these maps has nothing but a huge Drop Off and then the rest of the map is the terrifying, yawning endless blue infinity. Now, logically, you're perfectly safe. You're not going to 'die', and there's collision to prevent you swimming out of the game world. But try to get me to swim out past the Drop Off and into the sea - I have a massive fear of it. I hug the wall. It makes absolutely no sense. But I had to map out the area, and when I eventually did so, it was torture.
And this is just a video game.
I honestly can say that it's been a very long time since I've had as much fun with a game as I have with Endless Ocean 2. Fun, adventure and even dread - it's all been there. And I wouldn't have it any other way. If you end up having a go of it, I sincerely hope you have as much fun as I have.