Wakeboarding HD Review (PS3)

Wakeboarding is the perfect sport to base a downloadable title on. It's fast-paced, energetic and full of huge wipeouts; all key ingredients for a quick pick up and play session. Throw in ridiculous obstacles and attractive visuals, and you have the basis of what could be an enticing prospect. Unfortunately, after an hour or so of play you'll realise that no matter how tasty that formula seems, it suffers with gaming's Marmite effect; you're either going to love or hate its linearity.

That's not to say Wakeboarding HD isn't any fun. When you're pulling off tricks and racking up high-scores, it's mightily hard not to enjoy yourself. The problem is that the game's main influence is its biggest downfall. Wakeboarding is an on-rails sport, which means you're left taking the same route every time you get out onto the water. Although you have relative control over which side you decide to take past obstacles, there's usually only one route that'll ensure you complete the main objectives needed to progress.

It's bright, it's colourul, but it doesn't feel finished.
Knocking fishermen out of their boats and women from their lilos never gets tiring.

This lack of control is something that stems through the entire game. After a brief tutorial you'll be able to pull off numerous grabs and flips across a single jump, as there's little variety to the moves that'll get you the big points. Unfortunately, because each trick follows an automatic animation, it's hard to distinguish good players from excellent players. If you push the left stick forward once when jumping, you will do a flip- there's no middle ground. You can't try a flip and decide you don't have enough time to pull it off, once you've engaged, it will happen. Similarly, if you hold the left stick forwards you'll keep rotating like you've been caught inside an angry washing machine. It's disappointing to say the least, as there's no body adjustment needed if you overshoot a trick, and no thought required when trying to be inventive, as it simply isn't possible.

Despite acting as a spiritual successor to the N64's Wave Racer, Wakeboarding HD is leagues behind its jet-ski peer. While things here are tailored towards the bizarre, there's certainly no racing to be found. The main excitement comes from grinding across rooftops, dodging shark attacks and even bursting through giant rubber ducks. The game puts an emphasis on destruction, as you're urged to not just leap over a beach hut, but to crash right through the top of it. This would be fine if there weren't random objects that hinder your progress in the way. Mines are scattered throughout, giant nets stand firm, and there's certainly an element of frustration that creeps in from the lack of checkpoints once you've started. Get something wrong, and it's back to the start with a spanked bottom and no dinner.

And the award for most pointless on-screen command goes too...
Enviroments are stlylish and fun to progress through.

Fortunately, there's a certain charm here that'll make Wakeboarding HD attractive to players. Nailing the perfect run is undoubtedly satisfying, and surfing the waves is a refreshing alternative to constantly shooting people in the face. Your objectives will constantly keep you on your toes; whether it's setting high-scores or grinding for a certain amount of time, there's decent variety here to keep players progressing. The title's success will depend on how many gamers can put up with the aforementioned frustrations, as it appears we've found the roughest diamond to appear on the downloadable scene in some time.

All of these grimaces are a real shame for Wakeboarding HD, because it really could have been such an entertaining title. At times there's a spark here, as you fight to complete challenging objectives and enjoy the clean visuals. There's just so much missing that would have made this a must buy game. Customisation is nowhere to be seen, and the multiplayer modes may as well be non-existent. Loading times slow things down, often hitting the 30 second mark, a time frame that is often longer than your actual run on the water. It feels as if the developer has rushed this one out without little thought about what players actually want for their money, and at around $15, that mistake could be fatal.

Top Game Moment:
The visuals harp back to '90s games we love and miss.