Perhaps Wakeboarding HD’s smartest move is making you think it’s a simple, linear game. After all, with a pre-determined, unchangeable course mapped out in advance around each level seemingly removing any notion of control from the player, at first glance Creat’s latest offering appears to be little more than a one-way, on rails Hawk-a-like. On water.
But such impressions would be wrong. Sure, there’s jumping, flipping, grabbing and balancing on rails a plenty and whilst it’s true that your route through each area is essentially identical there’s a staggering amount of freedom to be found at the outer edges of the wake. Aim for the obvious targets and you’ll complete a level, but you’ll need to do much more to master it.
This doesn’t come naturally at first, however – charging through each course is a blast and the smooth difficulty curve means you’ll see most of what the game has to offer in terms of locale quicker than the average extreme sport title, but like the best in the genre it’s the almost endless capacity to learn, to improve, to master that’s at the heart of this PlayStation 3 exclusive title.
The foundation to this methodology is in the way each level is structured – collect 100 stars; smash 20 billboards; stay out of the water; don’t crash – in isolation these goals are manageable and simplistic, but combined together in groups of three and the challenge suddenly ramps up. Wakeboarding embraces completists (the level select screen is testament to that) and the hardcore have their work cut out.
The basic controls belie the depth, too, but grasping the important concepts (such as the hard edge turns and the multiplier boosting tricks) is key to understanding the multilayered track design – the best bits of any Tony Hawk game were those that allowed lengthy, skillful combos and Wakeboarding is no different, it’s just that the various elements are harder to spot at first.
Indeed, what can initially appear as broken, disparate ramps, bars and boardwalks turn into a high-ranking playground for the better players – each methodically aligned to be the perfect distance for a wake-jump or a mid-combo flip. The stars, more than just a points amplifier, are Wakeboarding’s manual, a mid-trick join tool to ensure you make the most of that score meter.
In single player then, there’s scope for near infinite replayability, although once a level is 100% beaten there’s no additional rewards for bettering your score apart from bragging rights on the online scoreboards. The two-player mode is a missed opportunity, though, and instead of offering up a multi-player centric selection of modes (HORSE is always fun) it’s merely a split screen version of the main game. Fun, yes, but we’d hoped for more.
Visually, Wakeboarding HD’s attractive, breezy interface is a clear aping of SEGA’s Outrun, complete with deep blue-skies, but it’s a strikingly impressive game in its own rights: the water itself is an authentic simulation and the technically superb graphics extends to the rich colour scheme, detailed scenery and suprising sense of scale. Only the up close modeling can look a little shabby in comparison.
Elsewhere, Wakeboarding HD manages to succeed and struggle in equal measures: the level’s main task is displayed using a smart progressive bar at the top of the screen, but the player must pause the game and navigate menus to see the secondary objectives. Likewise, the cutting and steering is sharp and precise but the game doesn’t always register ramps and will knock you over through no fault of your own.
Still, as a game that sits slightly uncomfortably as a top price download title but looks as good as a budget retail release, Wakeboarding offers plenty of entertainment. It’s not the longest game on the service, but the online leaderboards will ensure that players that want to get the most out of the game will do so, and although there’s nothing confirmed, future DLC could well make Creat’s latest a must have.
- Online leaderboards will ensure masses of replayability
- Stunning water effects, both visually and physically
- Multiplayer is weak (and the narrow screens make some levels impossible)
- It’s not always clear what will knock you over, and what you can break
- Load times are a bit long
Whilst Wakeboarding HD is definitely Creat’s most commercial title so far, it’s not perfect. For fans of extreme sports it’s a confident, expansive game with lots of potential and if the developers can push out some DLC down the line the multiplayer side of things will be more than an afterthought. That said, Wakeboarding HD is slickly presented, great fun to play and well priced at £12. Enjoy.