I’ll be honest, I didn’t really know what to expect from TikGames/Creat Studios’ Wakeboarding HD. I’m a big fan of some of the studio’s output, including the addictive Mushroom Wars and the short but compulsive Smash Cars, but Wakeboarding as a sport has never interested me and I normally prefer my boards on wheels, with Rodney Mullen balancing on top.
Still, I’ve got a reasonably open mind and I’m a sucker for PSN titles, so taking up the mantle of being the first person on the planet to get their hands on the nearly finished code I pulled on my wetsuit and installed the game, anxious to see what one of my favourite digital download developers had come up with for their eighth PlayStation 3 game.
First impressions were striking – the interface is gorgeous (it’s got that fluffy, breezy Outrun feel about it) and the load times snappy enough for a game not out for a little while yet. I decided to go in at the deep end and take on the game’s main mode but before I was allowed to get a proper feel I was forced through the mandatory (and unskippable) tutorial.
Turns out that the 10 minutes or so to do so was time well spent; Wakeboarding HD’s 17 lessons require your full attention as the game takes you through the basic controls, through to jumping and tricks through to grinding and combos, and as the game uses the same few buttons for multiple purposes it really is an essential process, so take your time.
The left stick obviously steers your ‘boarder, and whilst X is used to jump you can also tap the other buttons when on the water to perform certain tricks. Once in the air (either via a normal jump, a ramp, or via the wake for extra lift) the face buttons do various grabs, and all this can be combined with spins and flips, a little like SSX.
Once allowed out into the open waters and you’re free to experiment with the trick system the game starts to come alive – there’s seemingly dozens of locations on offer, and each has multiple objectives for your wakeboarder to complete, from collecting stars placed strategically around the course to knocking away certain objects or getting a specific score.
Each objective also comes with a bronze, silver or gold level of completion, all communicated effectively via a scrolling progress bar at the top of the screen so you always know how close you are to your next target – it’s a neat way of doing things and certainly encourages repeat plays of a course just so you can aim for gold.
Although the audio left a little to be desired at this stage in the game’s development (the music was a bit rough) the visuals were stunning. The Creat Engine goes from strength to strength and the water effects combined with the dynamic waves is hugely impressive and the scenery has a distinctive ‘pop’ to it too – it’s all very crisp and moves along at a lovely 60fps.
So, seemingly out of nowhere, Wakeboarding has shot to the top of my want list for the PSN. I didn’t have a huge amount of interest for the game previous but that’s now completely changed – it’s so different to anything else just now and my extreme sports fix has been filled: I can’t wait to get my hands on the finished game and play through the whole thing.
At least for now, Rodney Mullen will have to wait at the beach.