Reviews: Glub, glub, swish, swish, ?you can't catch me!? said the fishy fish fish.
Part Pokemon Snap, part Endless Ocean, throw a little Xbox Live into the mix and you have Sea Life Safari. Originating as an Internet downloadable game by Wild Tangent Game Studios, Sea Life Safari seems like a modern day attempt to reach back towards the good'ole days PC and Mac edu-tainment titles from the early nineties where gamers were playing games like the Oregon Trail and Dinosaur Safari in class .
Working with Professor Wills, players take the role of an underwater photographer traversing through five unique locations on a quest to fill out his album with pictures of fish, squids, and other underwater goods?.and that's about it. Gameplay is awfully shallow as compared to a game like Endless Ocean where you actually get the chance to explore the ocean. Instead players essentially sit through an on-rail ride-through as they try to find the best shot for each of your subjects. Exciting, huh? In order to get the best picture, you'll often be forced to zoom in on your subject and proceed to throw objects at them to provoke them into performing an action pose. Definitely something that you wouldn't want to show any world wildlife federation member or anyone hoping to scuba dive anytime soon.
In order to progress through each level, players must reach a specific number of star points which unlocks other levels where you'll be doing the same thing except with different species. The main problem is that you'll be repeating the same previous levels trying to figure out where one specific species is located at. Often, they'll only appear after two or three run-throughs after you access the hidden areas of each level.
Players looking for easy achievement points will be in for quiet a bit more replay value than the average joe who casually picks up the game as they'll be forced to go through each level again and again trying to find shells and the game's special items. While this can be fun at first, its redundant nature eventually catches up by the time you search through the Abyss twenty times trying to find the last remaining shell that was hidden between a rock and a hard place.
One of the game's most lacking features that it desperately needed was to let players learn about the species other than their names. Granted, there are fantasy creatures that wouldn't necessarily fit into an encyclopedic entry but the lack of this feature keeps the game from reaching the heights of other edutainment titles in my book.
Visually, the game doesn't try to do too much. Although some of the creatures are compelling enough to look at more than once, the game's environments are often bland and empty where as Endless Ocean made them feel real and life-like. Sure the game's creators leaned towards a more cartoonish appeal, but seeing the same exact fish model over and over doesn't exactly spell creativity. The game's audio is just as bad as it's filled with forgettable tracks and often monotone sound effects.
Despite the harsh criticism of the game, there are a few moments of enjoyment. From the kraken encounter to hunting down the game's special items there's a little bit of fun to be had. However, in order to get to these parts requires strict dedication to replaying each level again and again, and for this game, it's not worth the trip.