May 24, 2024

Brighton Journal

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Endless Ocean Luminous is not very good and I kind of like it

Endless Ocean Luminous is not very good and I kind of like it

Endless Ocean Luminous is the third game in a series that I've never played before, but that didn't matter a bit. It's a diving game and I could barely swim, but that didn't matter one bit. It's a game where not much happens, and what does happen happens very slowly. no problem. It's a game that has a thirty-player multiplayer component, which in theory is a big draw, but feels like the wrong way to play.

All of which is to say: I'm not sure Endless Ocean Luminous is particularly good – and I certainly don't want every game to be that way. But I've really enjoyed it so far.

This is a diving game. You're in the deep ocean, wearing wet clothes, and you're a scientist of sorts, which in this game means you're referring to fish. Fish come last? Point to them. A school of fish in the distance? (Is herd the correct term?) Point to them as well. Point out the big fish and the small fish. Point out the sharks and minnows. You found the idea.

By pointing at these fish, and holding down the L button while doing so, you scan them. It's so cool. Individual fish are highlighted in the UI and you'll get a bunch of light streaming from them that you can collect. This part – just this part – reminds me a little of an action RPG where the bad guys spew glowing plasma that you absorb, and feel all the experience points flowing to you as you do so. In Endless Ocean Luminous, the more fish you point allows you to unlock new parts of the story, all chapters of which are locked behind certain amounts of pointing fish. I thought the story was good and kind of likable in parts, but that wasn't the reason for the fish being mentioned. Pointing to the fish is its own reward.

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Trailer for the movie Endless Ocean Luminous.Watch on YouTube

I'll be honest: it's kind of become a groove that I've settled into, or maybe “weird middle-aged routine” is more accurate than “groove.” Every night, I dedicate thirty minutes to Endless Ocean Luminous, just to come in, spray, and point out fish, and I'll probably continue to do that once I'm done writing about the game.

Why? Well, for one thing, it's very peaceful. There is very little drama in Endless Ocean Luminous, even as the story begins to mature. That's why I don't want to play with 29 other people online. It's nice to be underwater, and to be alone in this blue-tinged world that changes every time you dive in (although you can stick to certain seeds for diving, if you want, which you probably won't). There's sand and rocks below you, and there's a shimmer of the surface above you. Who knows what you will find? Sometimes I explore thin channels of beige rock with tight angles. Sometimes they are kelp forests, or strange coral formations that resemble submerged beehives. These things are full of fish to point out, so there's exploring and a bit of busy work to keep you going. It's reckless in a way that brings me a kind of deep calm. Maybe I shouldn't be so proud of this.

Humphead Wrasse fish in the endless luminous ocean

A diver explores an underwater canyon in Endless Ocean Luminous

The endless ocean is illuminated. | Image credit: Arica/Nintendo

And sometimes, Endless Ocean Luminous suddenly draws you in with a mysterious mystery. He called it the Numinous Ocean: I will be at the bottom of the sea and I will see a gap, a hole beneath me. I would dive, and there would be darkness beneath me, a tunnel inviting me down. I will see fish and sharks below me that I know I haven't noticed yet. Some of the game's collectibles will likely be there, and I might find a cloud of fish easy to point out to prompt me to unlock the next chapter of the story. However, none of this is why I would explore, or why I would enjoy exploring. There's a surprisingly effective combination of qualities at play here: underwater beauty, no danger at all, and the slightest of interactive elements. Again, I apologize as this worked well for me in this particular case.

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While I admit my personal flaws, I have to say: I'm the type of person who loves aquariums but doesn't pay much attention to certain fish in them. I just love this little block of landscaped seabed in someone's waiting room, and I love the general ribbon-like passage of life within it. Details don't matter in some cases, just as I couldn't really tell you much about the plot of Endless Ocean Luminous, or about how the ping system works in multiplayer, or about the details of the individual fish you're scanning as you play. It's just a block of the water world and I can go in and out of the area. And I'm out of the zone because the things I'm supposed to do here are so minimal. For this particular game, I can say: If there were more of it, I probably wouldn't want to be here for it in quite the same way. If Endless Ocean Luminous had been a little better as a game, I would have moved on already.

A version of Endless Ocean Luminous was made available by Nintendo.