TikGames and Creat Studios recently brought their latest creation, Wakeboarding HD, to PSN and the game will be right up the alley of extreme sports fanatics. Based around the sport of Wakeboarding, as obvious by the title, the game goes a bit beyond the actual sport as shown by the sharks and explosives featured in the game's earlier trailers. Is this game simply going to be shark bait or will it rise high above the water for some perfect air time?
There's one thing that is immediately apparent about Wakeboarding HD and that's the focus of the game. It's purely geared towards arcade action, although there is a experience system available for personal satisfaction. Upon completing a stage players are rewarded with points that increase their rank whenever it completes a full circle - not exactly a system oozing depth, but fortunately the gameplay more than makes up for these deficiences.
Players are presented with a world map and a few unlocked challenges. Progression in these challenges is required to unlock the rest of the nodes and there are 20 challenges in total. When selected, players are given a main goal they have to achieve to pass the level and two bonus conditions. Simply completing the standard main goal will reward the player with only a bronze, and sometimes these main goals can actually be extremely hard to do, especially the ones involving obtaining score multipliers. However, excelling in the main goal increases the reward to silver and finally gold.
From the moment players are set loose on the water, the game instantly feels great. Although it's instantly apparent that it's a game that's going to be incredibly addictive for those wanting a challenge, but may provide a sense of frustration for those lacking in the patience department. The game works on the basis that players follow a speed boat through a stage and they are encouraged to destroy, jump, gain air and trick as much as possible and all the while collecting stars and gifts. Stars extend the duration of the score multiplier and while gifts also do the same they double the points earned for a duration or can actually affect a multitude of other factors depending on the challenges main goal.
It essentially feels like skateboarding on water, as players can grind rails, take air off ramps, flip, flex, hold, and do other tricks. Standard flips and spins are done just by pushing the analogue in a different direction. Square, X and Circle act differently while in the air when held, and when used on the water allows the player to jump straight into a specific trick. Unlike other games though landing the tricks is easy; it's literally a case of letting go of whatever players have held before they touch the water. This might make the gameplay sound easy, but when loads of flotsam and sharks are added to the mix, it's a completely different proposition.
Hard Edging is probably the only function in the gameplay that seems a bit unusual in its application. It allows players to do a sharper turn, but it's performed by pressing L2 and R2 and not in a massively intuitive way. At first it seems that simply holding down the buttons it is the way to go about it, but instead simple taps are far more affective. It means that it just loses control sometimes and with it being quite an important feature, especially in gate challenges, this can become a problem. In this challenge, players are only allowed to miss two gates; miss three and it's a simple gameover. The challenges overall are quite good, but there are a few inconsistencies with the difficulty. The game is overall quite hard, some challenges are ridiculously easy. It's not uncommon to fail horribly in one and yet completely dominate another further down the line.
Those with a decent level of patience will find themselves compelled to do better, the game has an extremely addictive aura to it. Simply getting a bronze feels entirely dissatisfying. In the end, skill will only get players so far, as hitting all the goals and achieving well involves precise planning - something that will definitely appeal to hardcore gamers. It also needs mentioning that dodging the far too cartoony sharks still has an extreme sense of urgency about it, as they miss by the smallest margin from a player's board. Not to mention that on some missions the game simply speeds the boat up to triple speed where everything just becomes a blur and a real challenge for the eyes to keep up with. Throw in a tonne of explosives and again the formula has been made even harder.
Despite the blurs and cartoony appearance of the sharks, the actual environments are stunning and of course the key element, the water, is absolutely pristine. It looks behaves and feels right; riding the surf and shaping it is quite exhilarating. The backgrounds are also fairly varied with rather large submarines appearing in the background akin to a particular film from a "moderately" famous band. Crashed aeroplanes and ancient Buddhas litter some of the other stretches of water. The sound effects are a really nice touch and the sound of the water is very fluid, the chime of stars as multipliers are collected is very pleasing, and the music fits the chaotic nature of the gameplay very well. There are only a limited amount of tracks played though, and one in particular will be strangely familiar to players.
Despite its arcade nature, the has a surprisingly good amount of content. Simply playing through the missions and achieving the basics will only take about 2 and 1/2 hours, but with games of this calibre it's about doing the best possible. Some of the goals along with the bonuses will require stern dedication to achieve. There are three characters to play as, but none of them play any differently and it's just down to personal choice. There are also numerous unlockables in the form of souvenirs to be obtained and a 2-player local multiplayer, which actually adds a fair bit to the game through the competitive nature. Ultimately the real replay comes from completing everything and squaring up against the world using the online leaderboards.
Wakeboarding HD is a game that simply looks beautiful and has some great gameplay. It gives a good sense of satisfaction for completing tasks, meaning the real depth of the game comes in its challenge. There could be some issues with length, the inconsistent difficulty and some control issues. But at the end of the day, Wakeboarding HD is a fun, addictive experience that's certainly going to be a challenge for players.