Here comes the sun, but it ain’t alright.
When I was a wee lad, surfing was as cool as it got. Every kid on the block had
a copious stash of Maui & Sons and Town & Country T-shirts, but only like 1 in
500 actually knew how to surf. Maybe it was the residual coolness factor from
60’s beach party cheeseball movies or the fact that rich dudes with feathery blond
hair named Lance or Devin always seemed to get the chicks.
Repressed Sun-In anger notwithstanding, I eventually gave up on learning how
to ride waves when I realized that you have to do it in the ocean, which is
where big sharks live, and big sharks eat people. Nowadays, the only surfing
I do is of the channel variety.
now, I should add, the game variety. I guess someone forgot to scratch surfing
off the list of Potentially Cool Games, because here I am grumbling about the
latest entry into this whirlpool of a genre, Ubi Soft’s Sunny Garcia Surfing.
While it manages to float a few meters above the bottom
of the ocean, it sure as hell isn’t the sunny beach it claims to be.
Sunny Garcia takes the Tony
Hawk route, featuring a group of real-world surfers with real-world stats
surfing totally fake, badly named coastlines. I suppose there are a few of you
out there who actually know who these surfers are, but until surfing hits the
national scene with the kind of X-Games hype befitting skating and biking, I
imagine most of you don’t know your Sunny Garcias from your Jeff
There aren’t many ways to play this game. Championship mode pits you against
other surfers in a series of elimination matches, each of which lets you try
to rack up points on a set number of waves in a set time. Arcade mode makes
you score as many points as you can with only a few falls. Time Attack makes
you nail tricks in a certain amount of time, and Freesurf is a practice mode.
Not a whole lot of inspiration here.
The basic gameplay tries to emulate real surfing. You start out in the middle of the ocean lying on a board. Then a swell starts up behind you, at which point you have to paddle around and decide whether or not to catch the wave. Once you stand up and get moving, it’s all about tricks and maneuvers until the wave is mysteriously ‘completed’, which seems to take about thirty seconds or so, provided you don’t bail before then.
And I absolutely guarantee you WILL bail before then, as Sunny Garcia‘s
control learning curve is steep and nasty. The wave physics are pretty unforgiving
– get caught in the wrong part of the wave and you’re toast. It takes a while
before you’re actually finishing waves, though it certainly feels right once
you’re up and moving. Sunny Garcia does a much better job than past surfing
games when it comes to actually putting you in the middle of the experience.
During your brief stint on the waves, you get points for pulling off face
tricks and air tricks. The face tricks are very easy, mainly just requiring
you to cut back and forth across the face of the wave while occasionally risking
a quick 180 at the crest. You can also try to duck inside the wave for big barrel
points, but it ain’t easy. For that matter, the air tricks are no walk in the
park. You have to press Circle to jump, then hold L2 and/or R2 and another button
to pull a trick, then let go of everything before landing…and this all must
be done in about 2 seconds. I don’t know why the developers require these button
combinations for standard moves. Seems a little too complex just to pull off
a simple grab.
better get used to grabbing and tweaking, because there isn’t a whole lot more
to do when you’re out on the waves. Unlike snowboarding and skating, surfing
sort of has a strike against it as a game because you don’t really interact
with anything aside from the wave. It’s fine if you’re a beach bum, but most
gamers will tire of carving back and forth with the occasional jump long before
getting any leg cramps.
Maybe someone took notice of this, because in Arcade mode you have to contend
with buoys, floating photographers and other random items while you surf. Unfortunately,
the crummy camera angles and sheer speed of the game make it seem totally arbitrary
whether or not you plow into objects and ruin your great run. It’s maddening
Like other surfing games, Sunny Garcia‘s graphics are a mixed bag.
The waves look pretty good, curling at the right speed and cresting white at
the right places. Too bad there’s little else to look at – the backgrounds are
bland and it seems that you’re the only one ever out catching waves. The motions
of the surfer look fine while surfing, but absolutely terrible in every other
place in the game, particularly the ‘victory’ sequence when you beat a Championship
or Arcade series. The characters suddenly look like animatronic Disneyland robots.
I don’t know who decided that generic pop/punk was the official sponsor of
surfing, but he should be drowned. Note to ‘extreme’ game developers: Tony
Hawk doesn’t just rule because it’s a great engine – it also has an eclectic,
thoughtful soundtrack. The music in THPS games is varied and classic.
The music in Sunny Garcia is as cookie cutter as it gets. If I wanted
punk, I’d pop on a Misfits album.
There are a few multiplayer modes here as well, but none are very fun. The
only one that stands out is Rumble mode, which is an odd sort of surfing mini-fighting
game where you carve back and forth on a giant wave picking up power ups to
hurl at your enemy. Sounds intriguing, but is no fun since you just, well, carve
back and forth picking up power-ups and hurling them at your enemy. Next time,
try some strategy. Plus, one of you is guaranteed to suck while the other is
used to the frisky controls. Sort of takes the competitive edge out of it.
For that matter, there’s very little edge to Sunny Garcia Surfing in
general. While it looks and plays better than Surfing H30, that’s not
saying much. Only guys named Lance need apply.