Before reviewing this game, I hadn’t really realized the fact that there just aren’t that many games that allow you to control a character that moves around in or on top of the water. I can think back and remember Ecco the Dolphin during the Genesis years and Waverace 64 on the N64, but what else besides arcade racing games like Hydro Thunder is out there? Enter Wakeboarding HD: the answer to all your water-sport gaming dreams, or so it could have been.
The premise is basic enough: control a character getting pulled behind a boat, perform tricks and complete objectives. The game reminds me a lot of old-school Tony Hawk games with rail-grinding, flips, grabs and much more. The game also has 20 different levels and probably just as many, if not more, different objectives to complete. The game begins with a basic training session, followed by a detailed game board full of different missions to unlock and choose from.
Missions range from having to perform a certain number of tricks before reaching the finish line, jumping over a certain number of specific objects, passing through gates, etc. While the mission objectives are far from inspired, the stiff controls are what really make this experience sink below the threshold the majority of the time.
When performing a trick in the air like a flip or a spin, you have to press the analog stick + whatever the button combination is once in the air. The trick continues to happen as long as you are moving the analog stick in any direction, so it makes maneuvering your character in the air extremely difficult since you a) move very slowly and b) would wipe out once making contact with the water again. This issue is compounded by the fact that the collision detection is less than ideal the majority of the time, leading to several frustrating wipe outs and lost points.
Littered throughout each stage are several items that you should aim to pick up and several items that you should aim to avoid. It’s often very difficult to identify which items in the environment are which, since they often look very similar or are not really clear which category they fall into. Should I try and collect that thing that vaguely resembles a floating lounge chair by the beach since I am trying to collect “toys” and it is surrounded by beach balls, or do I avoid it? This sort of arbitrary trial-and-error could have been avoided with simple help messages or tool tips.
Thankfully, especially for a downloadable PSN game, it’s one of the best looking out there. The water effects are bright, crisp and sharp and the overall visual style is extremely colorful and fun to look at. Later levels spice things up as well, with enemies like sharks that pop out of the water trying to eat you. There are also a few different characters to pick from, but they have no effect on gameplay at all. Local multiplayer is also offered, along with online leaderboards.
I found myself enjoying some aspects of Wakeboarding HD, such as the visuals and general arcade-style gameplay reminiscent of an on-rails Tony Hawk game, but it could have been so much more. While it isn’t necessarily a bad game, it just lacks the extra thought and polish that could have really pushed it over the edge.
- Wonderful visuals
- Fun and unique concept
- Stiff and unresponsive controls
- Unclear environments and objectives
- Relatively shallow (pun intended) gameplay
This review was conducted on a downloadable review copy of the game for the PlayStation 3 provided by Creat Studios.