Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Bergen, Norway
Given the lack of coverage and information about the game, I decided to type up some of my thoughts on it now that I've spent some time with it and played through all the missions.
When I first saw the heard about the game and saw the trailer, I figured it would probably be a clone of the early Tony Hawk games design-wise, and I wasn't too far off. For each of the 20 missions, you will have one main objective you have to complete to complete the level, as well as two secondary objectives, unrelated to your progress, but needed for completion and trophies. Moreover, the main objective is tiered into bronze, silver and gold medals depending on how well you accomplished your main objective. To properly "win" a level you have to come out with a gold medal and achieve both secondary objectives.
Where the game fails a bit is in the design of said challenges; they are never as inventive or fun as the Tony Hawk-style games were. No two of the 20 missions are the quite the same, but they revolve around the same archetypes. You have the levels where you collect stars, you have the levels where you run slalom through gates, you have the levels that are score/multiplier related, and you have the levels that are shark related. However, due to the secondary objectives you are always trying to do three things at once, and so the slalom doesn't necessarily get boring since at the same time you're trying to slide for 30 seconds and dodge 3 sharks.
This, however, leads to the biggest cave-out design wise: The game is fucking hard as nails. Getting through the missions with just a bronze medal and paying no head to the secondary objectives are easy enough, but if you're aiming for gold with secondary objectives, expect to spend a lot of time memorizing your path through the level. Furthermore, a gold medal with secondary objectives usually means doing a (near-)perfect run, and as we all now a near-perfect run is skill, but a perfect run is just as much luck, and that is infinitely frustrating.
You get to choose between three characters, two guys and a girl, however they differ in no way, and are just skins. This is disappointing considering most extreme sports games would differentiate between characters by having their stats be different. The game could have been made more interesting, if say for instance one of them could jump higher, one of them turn sharper etc.
Enough of the bad things, let's move on to the good stuff. The engine is amazing. It's just perfect; spot on in every way. The game controls just right, and while the trick system is limited, it does not stop this from being a really well put together game. Moreover, the physics feel just right. Whether it's the water or the jumping, it's really a lot of fun to just ride around, which makes it a real shame the levels can't be played in a free play mode removed from the challenges.
The game also offers offline split-screen multiplayer which I have not been able to try yet.
Quite simply put, for a PSN game this visuals are great. It only runs at 720p, but at a rock solid 60fps that never dips, barring some of the major explosions, but that's hardly noticeable nor does it affect gameplay, The design work is really good, although as caveat for being a budget game all the levels are in the same setting: south-east Asian paradise island thingy. This, of course, allows them to re-use most of the assets again and again, but they still did a really good job of the visuals; the constant 60fps being the most impressive feature.
Now, this is probably the game's weakest area. It's easy to tell it's been completely over-looked. The sound effects themselves are fine, and do a well enough job considering the budget nature of the title. However, the music consists of one single track of ambient electronic music. Extreme sport titles like this really need varied licensed soundtracks, and while it is perfectly understandable that a PSN game couldn’t have that, I feel it's a great let-down that the game doesn't offer me custom-soundtrack option allowing me to play tracks from the hard drive. To close off the sound section there is a voice that says something I can't make out if you win, and "you suck" in an eastern European accent if you lose. It gets old really quickly, and believe me, you will heat "you suck" a lot, and there are only so many times you can retort "and so does your pronunciation" quietly to yourself.
The game is good. It's not great, but it's good. They’ve made a really good engine and a framework for a much better game, and you can't deny it's really great fun to play. However, after they got the game feeling just right, they just pissed together the rest. The objectives, while not really failing, are never as good as they should be, and the sound is not very good at all. It's really frustrating as this game could so easily have been a must buy truly great title, but in this state it's just merely quite good. It will take you a good 5 hours or so to play through the missions, but it will take a lot longer than that if you wish to properly complete the game. It's a shame the game is $20, as for $10 I could recommend it to nearly everyone, but as it stands I can only truly recommend it to extreme sports games enthusiasts.
Final Score: 7/10