Wakeboarding -- what a thrill! (No, not really, my whole life is a lie.)Review by Ben Kosmina
Wakeboarding Unleashed Featuring Shaun Murray (henceforth simply 'Wakeboarding') proudly proclaims, "Now you can wakeboard wherever you want. And you don't even have to get wet!" Featuring a cast of seven wakeboarders who I've never heard of before and probably never will again, it's a surprisingly tolerable game that just might hook you.
Generally, I loathe sports games. Whose brilliant idea was it to make gamers play games that are based on physical activity? Ugh. Just thinking about such games makes me exhausted. Before you know it, they'll be making games where we have to go out in the sunlight
. However, after forcing myself to play Wakeboarding, I grudgingly admit that I started to enjoy it. No button is used to accelerate or brake -- your character is hanging on for dear life to a rope that is attached to a speedboat. You automatically progress through a Mode 7 style track, with ramps and rails strewn throughout. The B Button is the most used, as you hold it down to crouch and let go to jump (you can then perform stunts while in the air).
The game is pretty much the same as most other skateboarding and BMX games out there in that it has a career mode, tutorial mode, single session mode, and multiplayer mode. The tutorial mode does a decent job of getting you started and teaching you the basics. You'll be asked to perform a particular move after it is explained how you can do it. Once you do the said move, you will move onto the next one. The only problem with this is that you cannot select which moves you'd like to brush up on -- you always have to start from the beginning of the tutorial. Single session mode allows you three minutes to earn as many points as possible. This mode is a good practice mode. Multiplayer mode has three different variations. The first two are competitive versions of Single Session and Balloon Burst, while the third is a mode called "Horse". In this mode, players keep taking it in turns to outdo each other. The player with the lowest score each round earns a letter. This continues until all players spell the word "HORSE" -- which can be replaced with any word you like, yes even THOSE words.
The main mode of the game, of course, is Career mode. In this mode, you select one of the 'famous' Wakeboarders and make your way through the various courses, completing various objectives such as spelling out "WAKE," earning a certain amount of points, completing a course specific stunt, or collecting a 'Superstat.' Completing a certain amount of tasks or collecting the Superstat will give you additional 'Stat Points,' which can be used to improve your character. Rail Balance, Jump, Landing, Hang Time and other stats can all be enhanced to your liking. If you perform well enough in the game, you'll be able to max out your character's stats, and then there'll be no limit to what kind of tricks you can do (unless you're crap, of course -- but then you probably wouldn't have earned enough stats to max out your character anyway).
Another mode of the game is "Balloon Burst" -- similar to regular gameplay, you have three minutes to earn as many points as you can, but in this mode, there are different coloured balloons scattered along the course. The more balloons you collect in a row, the higher multipliers you get for your tricks, allowing for some phenomenal scores. There are 24 balloons in the entire course.
Graphics, while in Mode 7, are pretty cool. Characters are well animated, and everything is clear to see. The levels are varied and each have a style of their own. Menus are clear and easy to navigate through. Sound is okay, with crowds cheering, birds chirping, and various splashing sounds when you land -- pretty much what you'd expect. Music, on the other hand, is incredibly bad, with grungy-repetitive-scratchy-noise being a Wakeboarder's music of choice, apparently. One of three very similar, very awful sounding songs are played each time you play, and they are bad enough to make you consider sticking a stalk of asparagus in each ear to block out the din. Thankfully, Small Rockets was considerate enough to include an adjustable volume for both music and effects, so no drastic asparagus measures are required.
Small Rockets have created an enjoyable Wakeboarding game -- I have no idea if it's true to the sport, and seeing as I've never heard of it before, I don't really care. I begrudgingly admit that I had a lot of fun with it, so it can't be all bad. Fans of the sport can't do wrong to pick this up, and if you think you're a gamer that can stomach a sports game, you might do well to take a look as well.Pros:
- A lengthy, enjoyable career mode.
- Player statistic enhancements as you progress.
- Three four-player multiplayer modes.
- The music will make asparagus earplugs seem like an attractive option.
- The taunting, dimmed out Cheats Menu that I know I'll never, ever access.
Fairly nice looking Mode 7 graphics, with clear sprites. There's also a brightness option for those of you with original the Game Boy Advance.Sound: 6
While the sound is decent, the music is vile, and makes me want to play Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly. And that's just inhuman. Thankfully, there's volume adjustment for both effects and music.Control: 8
The game has a nice (if not a little restrictive) Tutorial mode that explains how to perform moves, and then waits for you to do them. The controls are fairly easy to pick up, and quite responsive. No complaints here.Gameplay: 8
Plenty of different game options and the ability to play against up to three other friends by taking turns playing against each other. Career Mode is well done, with lots of varying tasks and the ability to enhance your character's various statistics.Lastability: 7
If you enjoy sports games, then you've probably played this game before as a different sport, and most likely will get through it quickly. Trying to get your player up to full stats is certainly incentive to keep playing, and some of the Career tasks are definitely fun.Overall: 7
Yoko Ono-inspired music aside, Wakeboarding is a title that will certainly appeal to fans of the sport. Gamers who enjoy sports games in general will probably eat this one up too. As for the rest of us... well, it was certainly more enjoyable than reviewing Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly. And if a game passes that test, well then -- it can't be all that bad.