Because of the recession, it's unlikely that you will get that tropical holiday you have been dreaming about. Playing Endless Ocean 2 from the couch with a bag of chips may just be the next best thing.
The original game divided opinions with its 'chillaxed' (yes I wrote that in a review) pace and lack of direction. The sequel won't make anyone change sides, but it has taken a few steps towards making the game more involving.
To give players a better sense of purpose, EO2 has a much stronger narrative and will give you more tasks such as healing fish, retrieving items, and giving personal tours. Of course the real meat to the game is going off on your own to explore. The game will never badger you (apart from in the tutorial) to complete tasks and is extremely open ended. You can just chill and swim around interacting with the fish, go exploring, take photos or even pimp out your own personal island.
Completionists may as well forget about playing other games this year - there is a ridiculous amount of things to do in this game. Of course, EO2 keeps track of your progress, filling in an encyclopedia of information on species you have interacted with and charting maps from your exploration. You can even look after aquariums and teach friendly creatures to do tricks. And I haven't even mentioned collecting precious booty yet...
For me at least, just exploring takes up the majority of game time. You have different oceans to explore with differing marine species, you will dive under icebergs, through submerged canyons and even explore the odd ruin. It's true, some areas of the game are a little bland, but many are quite interesting. Somehow the first area of the game keeps me coming back and sort of feels like home. You can also climb up onto various islands to explore and observe some land-based lifeforms if you need a change of scene. To say there is a lot to see and do in this game would be to make the understatement of the decade.
When you first get dropped into the ocean, the controls seem somewhat clumsy and slow. They don't improve, but you do get used to them, and the game doesn't ever really require lightning quick reflexes. For what they are, they do work well, and a big plus is that it's easy to lie down and relax while playing the game. EO2 never requires that much concentration and you only need one hand free. The game isn't demanding, and really, it's all the better for it.
It's hard to rate this game on presentation. Sure it is pleasant to look at but the hardware limitations can be painfully obvious (unlike in the beautiful Mario Galaxy). Now I won't say graphics are everything, but for a game that revolves around exploring environments, they can certainly add a lot to the experience. The music and sound effects are also nice, but nothing special, which is a shame as better sound and graphics would have made the game more realistic and given even more incentive to explore.
All of this may be well and good, but did I actually enjoy playing EO2? I'd say it was a pleasant experience, but forgettable. The game requires a lot of time for seemingly little pay off. I can however appreciate how some gamers could become fully immersed in the game world and EO2 is a nice game to wind down to. It's a pity that there is no custom soundtrack this time as I feel the game is best enjoyed with some progressive trace playing in the background. Not everyone will appreciate this game, but you have to give the developers props for doing something different, and I think it would also be a great game for younger gamers too. I certainly wouldn't feel guilty letting kids kill a few hours underwater.
At the end of the day, you have to ask: could the cash you lay down for this game perhaps be better used towards a vacation?