Before publishing Endless Ocean, Nintendo had a "blue ocean" strategy of reaching out to non-gamers: casual players, the elderly, and everyone else who was scared off by online deathmatches and controllers with more than one thumbstick, but would flock to games that were accessible, low-key, and fun. Endless Ocean tries hard to be one of those games. As you embark on one diving mission after another, the game takes pains to let you know that you can take your time floating around, and tackle the story whenever you get around to it.

But while the slow pace promises a fish-tank-like serenity, you're quickly goaded into beating as much of the game as possible, by collecting every sea creature, finishing all the subplots, or at least unlocking the next piece of equipment, so you aren't stuck floating around the same few lagoons. Add clunky dialogue, cornball mythologies, and a few curious mechanics—you learn about the fish by petting them, which is the first thing grade-school fish fans are told not to do—and you have a strange, sometimes awkward experience. Rather than focusing on intuitive controls and a streamlined concept, Endless Ocean is an obsessive's collection-and-exploration game in a deceptively calm wrapper.

Beyond the game: If listening to the android karaoke soundtrack deliver the world's worst version of "Shenandoah" doesn't float your boat, the game will let you swap in your own mp3s.


Worth playing for: The game would make a better time-waster if the graphics were more eye-popping and luminescent, which is a problem with the visual style, rather than the Wii's processing power. But the encyclopedia that lists every fish you've found displays them with charming animations and brief factual blurbs.

Frustration sets in when: Be careful giving this to your older relatives who loved Wii Sports or Brain Age: The controls and options are less intuitive, and contorting yourself in a tight cave to zoom in on a sea slug can frustrate players of any age. (At the same time, it's all too easy to imagine a couple of new addicts in a nursing home, using walkthroughs to unlock each costume and bragging about how many fish they've collected.)

Final judgment: A chill-out session better suited to gamers than grannies.