Can you smell what this Sea-Doo is cooking?
Extreme sports seem to be all the rage in video games these days. Ever since Tony
Hawk flipped, manualed, and grinded his way to the bank, developers have been
looking for the next big extreme sport moneymaker. With snowboarding becoming
a mild success and surfing wiping out so far, what’s next? Well, Nintendo just
put out another Wave
Race, Eidos is coming with Wave Rally, and Infogrames has just released
Splashdown, so I guess someone decided that Jet skiing was the Next Big
by Sea Doo, the biggest name in jet skis, Splashdown combines aqua racing
with air trickery like you’ve never seen before. I expected just another Xtreme
joke with ho-hum gameplay and more Xtreme rock, but what I got was a pleasant
surprise. The annoying rock is still there, but I must say that this ride is
a lot more fun than I though it would be.
The object of the game is simple – cross the finish line before any of the
other racers. There’s actually more involved than you think. Speed is not only
based one a particular racer’s statistics, but his or her stunts as well. Start
pulling off some cool tricks and your maximum speed will increase. You’ll also
have to keep it up because the bonus speed meter gradually decreases over time.
And to make things even more challenging, you’ll have to perform a variety of
stunts since repeats are not worth as much. It’s similar to the system in SSX,
but there’s more.
Thanks to some pretty good physics, leaning will also affect what happens
to your craft. Leaning back will pull the jet ski’s nose out of the water and
make it go noticeably faster. Going forward will help slow it down and make
tight turns a lot easier. Bet you didn’t know riding a jet ski was that complicated.
The stunts in Splashdown look great with a nice-sized move list to
execute. And better yet, doing them doesn’t require a PhD in the nautical physics
ratio of H2O to O2, whatever that means. Again, it’s similar to SSX by
relying on the triggers, which is handy and intuitive. Each racer has his or
her own signature stunts as well, lending some depth.
Unlike Wave Race, Splashdown does not put much of an emphasis
on slaloming buoys. A few of them are scattered throughout each course, but
missing them won’t lead to an automatic disqualification. Instead, it will just
cause you to stall and lose some of your bonus speed.
unlike Nintendo’s game, Splashdown courses are filled to the brim with
interesting bits. You’ll find plenty of crazy paths, a few shortcuts and even
obstacles littering the way. It’s a much more lively set of courses, plus there
are 18 to blast through.
One thing that seems to be missing is some weather effects. It isn’t sunny
every day, but for the most part the waves are pretty tame. It would be nice
to see an occasional storm stirring up some bigger swells.
Speaking of which, the water looks pretty good. Everything else in the game
looks fine, but the water effects steal the show. If only they could have made
the “splash” effect more realistic, the presentation would have been near perfect.
In addition to the single player Career mode, there are also a few multiplayer
games to enjoy. Circuit is the basic race, Countdown has you collecting balloons
for time, and Copycat has each player trying to copy the other ala HORSE. Very
The audio portion of the game is also standard, particularly the music. Apparently
when no one was looking, developers decided to make pop-punk the official theme
of all Xtreme games. Not surprisingly, there’s more of it here with Sum 41 and
Blink 182 leading the way. Guess it’s all a matter of preference. However, all
will agree that the voice acting in Splashdown is far from quality work.
Instead of normal speech, players are forced to swallow badly stereotypical
racial accents that border on being offensive. Oh well, I guess there are worse
things we could be listening to, right Infogrames?
In this young field of jet ski racing games, Splashdown is ahead of
the pack. Easy to handle control, a decent trick system, and the all important
water physics are down pat. A little more tuning and this jet ski will really
be able to eat up the competition.