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Sealife Safari

Don’t drop it. Your ice cream, I mean. In the sweltering summer months there is little more you could want to cool you down than that tasty treat. With a barrage of hotheaded, serious games on the way, gamers could be forgiven for not having time to relax properly. Sealife Safari tries to buckle this trend however, as it seems Sierra are getting into the holiday spirit by offering us the chance to unwind without spending heavily and leaving the normality of our own households. In reality though, all that Sealife Safari provides is a simplistic, on-rails journey that is cluttered with vital flaws that aren’t going to calm you down; they will put you to sleep.

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When reviewing a game, more often than not I know where to start. Usually, a defining feature of the title will stand out enough to provide my first focus point, and then I can build the rest of the article around this basic starting block. It comes as a surprise then that Sealife Safari defies these odds. How do you begin with a title that has little narrative, shallow gameplay and is as fun as using your testicles as an undersized space hopper? Yes, it really is that painful as this “game” ranks amongst the worst Live Arcade titles to be released this year.

“I doubt this game will hold the attention of minors much further than the title screen”The premise is simple. A researcher wants you to dive into a variation of areas in order to take photographs of as many weird and wonderful inhabitants you can find. He is counting on you to bring out the personality in each creature so he can create a complete portfolio of stunning work. Get ready to submerge into five different areas including a rich coral reef, an abandoned ship graveyard and a crimson tinted volcanic wasteland. It sounds exciting on the surface, but once you actually begin playing it is obvious to see that this is aimed towards the younger end of 360 gamers. Unfortunately for the developers, I doubt this game will hold the attention of minors much further than the title screen as it hardly capitalises on the interests of its intended audience.

Once comfortable in your submarine and into the water, matters really begin sinking to new depths. With a maximum of four buttons being used through the entire game, there really is little need for the patronising tutorial that tries to welcome the player in. This could be classed as insulting as all the gamer needs to know is how to take pictures of wildlife under the sea. Now, that is by no means a bad thing, and if done properly could provide a totally thrilling experience for those ready to take the challenge. Regrettably, that notion is quickly blown out of the water as Sealife Safari limits the amount of interactivity the gamer can enjoy from the very first dive.

As your submarine follows a preset route, there is little room for exploration here. You can look around by all means, but the potential this game may have held if it allowed the player to investigate surroundings independently has been quickly bypassed and left to sleep with the fishes. The only control you have is where the camera points (left analog stick), the amount of zoom (left trigger), the taking of the photo (right trigger) and the throwing of a “Gizmo” (B Button). If the Gizmo is thrown close to any of the creatures, they will show a hint of their personality through facial expressions or body language (such as biting or hiding their face). This only highlights how the game is nowhere near real life, a fact reinforced by shoddy animation that helps to tear any lingering sense of authenticity from the jaws of the under whelmed gamer.

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“Players should expect to have all levels unlocked well within an hour of play”As each photo is judged on the how well it is centred, if the subject is looking and how close it is, the game is stupidly effortless to work through. The Gizmos come into play as they gain you a bonus for capturing a creature’s expression on film, and are also used to fire towards hidden shells in each level (again adding towards a larger bonus). Players should expect to have all levels unlocked well within an hour of play, and most probably won’t be tempted to revisit too many times. If you are lured back in though, special creatures appear in each area after the third play through. These aren’t particularly fulfilling it must be said, but the Achievement hunters amongst you may well go back for more. I mean, if you buy this game in the first place, you deserve to be put through this completely miscalculated production more than once.

So, with awful last gen graphics and animation to match, what else could go wrong for this game? A hell of a lot, obviously.

As each level runs pretty much identically each time, if you are wanting to take a picture of a creature that appears near the end you have to sit and play through the rest before you reach the desired encounter. You cannot speed proceedings up or dive to the particular area you want; the only option is to sit and wait. This is incredibly frustrating as more often than not the researcher outlines a particular fish he would like a photograph of. Throw into the mix a repeating soundtrack and only twelve different creatures per level, and you have yourself a real stinker of a game.

It really is difficult to pick out one decent part of this game. The most innovative feature is that different creatures may appear depending on what time you dive. You can also save your favourite photos and have your points placed onto the online leaderboard, but that is the entire bang for your buck. With such poor production values, it is probably a good thing that the developers didn’t try to incorporate some kind of multiplayer here. It is fair to say that because this game is so dire, nobody would it give it a chance online anyway. You only have to look at the lack of activity on the excellent Aces of the Galaxy to understand that this title would be a complete waste of space in the multiplayer region.

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“The most innovative feature is that different creatures may appear depending on what time you dive”When the summer months have dried up and we return to routine, this game will just be a dirty blotch on the mildly stained underpants of the Live Arcade. Even though it is aimed at kids, Sealife Safari does not entertain or educate enough for it to be encouraged towards the children of the gaming world. It really is a shame, as this idea could have been capitalised on brilliantly at this certain point in time. For 800 MS points (about $10/£6.50), there are many other quality productions out there to help you settle down and relax this summer. Besides, if it comes to it, that’s enough for another ice cream or two, right?

3 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in September 2007.

Gentle persuasion

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