Wakeboarding HD Review
It you’ve ever owned a ZX Spectrum, there’s a slim chance that you played a game called Aquaplane, where a pixelated chap was towed on his water-skis. If you owned a Nintendo 64, then there is a good likelihood you got to have a go on WaveRace, a jet-ski racer. Wakeboarding HD on PSN is a cross between these two titles with perhaps a bit of Tony Hawks Pro Skater thrown in for good measure. The player finds himself controlling a wakeboarder being towed behind a powerful speedboat, performing stunts and generally showing off whilst trying to avoid whiting out and being eaten by giant sharks.
The player has a choice of three different characters, though this is really just an appearance thing as there are no skill differences between any of them, just their alternative typical beach-worn style. From here the game takes you through a seventeen stage tutorial, which explains how the game works and controls. It’s all fairly straight forward stuff, the boarder is moved about with the left stick, and jumps and stunts can be performed by hitting the various pad buttons at the right time.
Once past the tutorial, the opportunity arises to wonder around the world map, to choose from the twenty or so various challenges that lay in wait. These aren’t all available at once as the player must unlock them in turn. Each of these has a specific goal that must be completed in order to win, such as knocking fifty toys out of your way, or jumping over three yellow ducks. Finish one of these and a medal is awarded from bronze to gold, depending on how well the achievements have been met.
Sometimes the goals aren’t explicitly clear, leading to a bit of confusion, but on the whole it is fairly obvious what’s going on. To master each level totally though is going to take some dedication, reaching the top echelons of the leaderboards requires mastery of the controls, big chaining combos through the level paths and no mistakes at all. This is certainly a tricky feat when some objects will cause you to take a dive, and others will simply crush under your weight; it definitely errs more on the side of arcade than serious simulation, so although the water looks pretty, it doesn’t have a huge impact on the movement around the place.
There’s a fixed path through each of the levels, though often ramps, jumps and stars (collected to help boast the chain combos) can appear on either side of the level – it’s down to the player to work out the best place to be in order to maximise the points scored from stunts, jumps and grinds. It’s not without its frustrations though; at times the player will start getting aggrieved at bailing after not reaching the area of water he wanted to be at and hitting something in the way – this is largely down to getting use to the speed sweeps on the board edge, something that takes some practice to get right.
Wakeboarding HD is certainly a pleasant looking game, with bright and colourful graphics and some really nicely done water effects. In some ways it has the brashness of Crazy Taxi, with a similar sort of irreverent humour in places. On occasion, the player will find himself scaring bikini-clad girls by jumping over them whilst they sunbathe on their lilos. At other times he will find himself skimming along the top of a massive barge, having leapt a giant inflatable duck whilst dipping down under a massive sweeping water dragon.
Local and global leaderboards are supported by the game, allowing you to compare your scores with your friends or players from throughout the planet; it’s also possible to compete in some local multiplayer action, though sadly the online racing part of the game is missing completely.
Wakeboarding HD is a fun title with a simple control system that’s easy to learn but will take some dedication to master, and provides some entertaining enjoyment without getting heavy or serious. It is perhaps a touch on the pricey side for a downloadable, as although there’s a fair chunk of content here to get through, it’s all quite similar from one level to the next. Definitely worth a look, it’s just shame there’s not a demo to tempt you further in.