Hang ten, then hang yourself.
I think Jeff Spicoli has been visiting game developer offices and passing out magic mushrooms, because we've seen waaaaay too many surfing games lately. And each one just seems worse than the last.
Surfing H30 already starts off with a huge strike against it simply because of its name. H30? What the hell is that? We all know that H20 is water. So what happens when you add an extra hydrogen molecule? More fun? Bigger waves? I'm no chemist, but if H20 = water, then H30 has got to equal something like The Blob.
Which, as it turns out, is a pretty good analogy. Surfing H30 is a blob of a game, a mindless, wandering ball of gaming waste aiming to devour your money, though at least it comes with a free toy.
The gameplay basics are at least straightforward. You have to ride a wave to a goal line, collecting colored markers and pulling tricks for points. Meet the point total to ride the next wave. Rinse. Repeat.
You spend most of your time carving back and forth maintaining speed while picking up these big dumb shiny buoys for points. When you reach the goal line (not the shore, I should mention), you get more points. Yes, it's as dull as it sounds.
The character design is banal. At first you can choose from 5 different stereotypes, including a surfer dude named "Kelly Sunset" and another surfer dude named "Mark Mavericks." Both sound like 80's porn stars to me.
Eventually you can play as 11 different surfers, each with slightly different stats. Sadly, the statistics have pretty much no discernable effect on the ride.
Surfing H30 features a whopping TWO play modes: Tournament and Vs. Mode. I prefer to call it "One Player" and "Two Player." That's it. About as much variety as you'd find in an Oreo cookie.
The graphics are pretty bad. The various waves look decent enough and some of the water effects are nifty, but the backgrounds are awful and the surfer moves like he's sewn to the board. Plowing through water is like sliding down a dirt hill. The ocean looks more like a huge bowl of navy blue Jell-O than an actual body of water.
The sound is equally bland. I was hoping for some Dick Dale, but like every game based on a remotely 'extreme' sport, Surfing H30 features a purely punk rock soundtrack. Because when I hear some Samiam, I want to hit the beach!
Everyone knows that surfing has a steep learning curve - you'll fall down a lot before you manage to stay up for a whole ride. Well, Surfing H30 makes it even harder by implementing horrible gameplay mechanics.
You know there's something wrong with a game when you don't use the X, Circle, Triangle, or Square buttons during gameplay. Instead, you use the analog sticks to steer, the trigger buttons to paddle and pull tricks, and the L3 and R3 buttons to lean forward or backward on the nose or tail. I'll repeat that last bit. L3 and R3.
The big novelty here is a little plastic surfboard attachment that comes packaged with the game. You snap it on to the analog sticks and suddenly pushing down on the sticks to activate the L3 and R3 buttons is made easier. I'll admit that the attachment has its charm for about 5 minutes, after which it becomes a great bathtub accessory. Surf's up, rubber duckie!
I should mention that playing without the little plastic surfboard is about as much fun as stabbing yourself in the eye with a little plastic surfboard. I'm not exaggerating.
Part of the problem is the stupid camera. Rather than staying fixed, it sometimes just swings around wildly trying to make you seasick. And often it will succeed.
I think earlier I mentioned the word "tricks." I mentioned it in passing because you'll rarely pull one off. Performing a trick requires a ridiculous set of circumstances. I quote: "the speed meter must be in the yellow/green area" "the character can only launch into the air in the area just before where the wave begins to curl" "the board must be vertical towards the lip within approximately 10 degrees." What mad German scientist came up with this crap? In a game that allows you to surf an imaginary coastline as a giant blue sharkman, this bizarre adherence to wacky surfing physics is retarded.
If you actually manage to get up in the air, the trick system involves various combinations of the triggers, totaling 8 different trick options. Compared to just about every other extreme game made since the original Tony Hawk Pro Skater, it falls terribly flat. It's boring and completely unsatisfying and sucks.
Which pretty much describes Surfing H30 in general. The lackluster presentation, awkward control and unbelievably shallow gameplay make this the first official bottom feeder for the PS2. Sic 'em, Jaws.