Now, just over two years later, we've officially started shooting nature in the face. Blue World's Pulsar gun lets players ward off dangerous creatures or heal sick ones with a pull of the trigger. It's also required to access more interesting locations, a process which temporarily puts you in a first-person perspective. Even before I started playing Blue World, the Pulsar gun irritated me. Someone had gotten a shooter inside my chilled-out fish game, and I wasn't happy. But it turns out Blue World keeps the shooting to a minimum and, the Pulsar gun is strangely forgiving even when its use is required. Had this been an actual damage-based gun, I would be committing fish genocide. Instead, the game praised me for improving the ecosystem. Blue World had succeeded at the impossible: I was shooting fish and having a blast.


Blue World's story was just as much of a departure from that of its predecessor. It turned the open ocean into an increasingly linear affair, with no real consequences for failure. There were also more NPCs involved in the storyline, which provided more options and side quests along with more "reminders" to tend to story missions first. I ended up liking the game, but in an entirely different way than expected, solving each puzzle so I could get to the interesting part: everything else.

Now when I'm trapped in Cocoon or annoyed in Azeroth, I return to Blue World to fill up my notebook, draw in the corners of maps, build a world-class aquarium, explore the areas I rushed through to complete the storyline and take pictures to my heart's content. According to its developers, the game contains 200- to 300-hours' worth of material. When a game has that much content, there's no need for it to be "replayable."

With higher review scores and critics praising the additional gameplay elements, Blue World is on track to perform better than its predecessor. But whether that will be enough to merit another entry in the series is still uncertain. Now that ARIKA's clearly got the genre down, they're in an ideal position to go somewhere with it - and they should. According to some estimates, we've only explored about one percent of the ocean floor. Obviously different types of ocean wrecks and more locations to explore are safe, shallow steps for a sequel. Better character customization and improved controls would be ideal, along with the incorporation of deep sea submersibles like bathyspheres.

That leaves plenty of territory for games to explore, but letting the series float aimlessly while hoping that people catch on isn't enough to keep it going. The market is out there, and the title could do more than fill an oddball niche. Teamed up with a large media partner like the Discovery Channel or BBC, and marketed to fans of Blue Planet, Endless Ocean could live up to the fascination and wonder generated by its namesake.

Nova Barlow's favorite virtual vacation spot these days is Nineball Island.

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