Developer: Rainbow Studios
Release Date: August 4, 2003
Buy 'SPLASHDOWN: Rides Gone Wild': PlayStation 2
Do you remember just relaxing on the beach and enjoying the waves, when you heard the sudden vroom of an engine and were drenched with water? Well it’s time to get back at your friend with the jet ski and beat him at his own game. No one makes fun of your tropical-colored Speedos and gets away with it. Welcome to the domain of Splashdown Rides Gone Wild!
Once you throw this game into your console, you will be able to watch a pretty nicely detailed intro. It starts off with a nice little 25 mph rollercoaster ride which just blows, leading up to the girl commenting about the coaster needing some speed. This is where it then goes into gameplay graphics, and boy, do these moves look sweet. You see them doing flips, tricks and many more. After seeing this, you will also observe the nice little warning message. These tricks are fictional, do not try this at home, etc. You know that won’t stop someone from pulling a Jackass, but it’s there for the people who are paying attention.
The gameplay is quite easy to pick up, using most the buttons available on the PS2 controller. You have the trick buttons, acceleration, submarine, and many more. You should get quite familiar with the key configurations because at each turn and jump, you should be hitting something in correlation with the acceleration button. Just winning the race is never satisfying; you must win with style! In order to do this, you must bust out mad amounts of tricks, and this game has plenty. The key configuration for the tricks range in difficulty: tier 1, 2, or 3. There are also vehicle stunts, in which the vehicle – not its rider – turns, twists, or spins, great for starting out your massive chain of tricks. You can also win by finding the quickest shortcuts and finishing the course before your opponent even knows about it. Remember, you must still hit the buoys because if you don’t, you will lose speed and precious time, leaving you vulnerable. So follow the course closely, and take shortcuts if you can, but remember to do it with style, or you’ll have no bragging rights.
In most sports games, you will always need to unlock certain items, and this game is no exception. You have to unlock characters, clothing, vehicles and tracks by winning points in career mode and purchasing them. There are a total of 12 characters (four unlocked and eight locked), five clothing options per person, and seven different types of vehicles (only one unlocked). With this many locked items, you have a long way to go in order to beat the entire game. The last field that requires unlocking is the crazy amount of stages.
Possibly the most impressive thing about Splashdown is the background. It looks almost like a real-life theme park. There are a total of eight stages for regular battle, 12 for stadium courses, five freestyle courses, and 21 technical time trial courses. Not all of these stages are unlocked to start off with, but each stage has a separate theme which matches the name well and makes it truly enjoyable. The first stage to which you would have access would be Bermuda Blast, where the theme is about pirates. It’s a very nicely thought-out level, aside from the fact that the scene changes from day to night in a matter of seconds, during which time the screen just goes blank. Although the delay is a little annoying, the payoff is worth it, as you can enjoy the stage’s pirate atmosphere and wonderful lightning effects. Many of the levels are fairly similar to this but with different backgrounds; Dino Dominion has dinosaurs, and Downtown Downpour has you racing through a city. The background is just so impressive that it deserves a special mention (and a tip of the hat to the developers!).
Not only are the backgrounds pretty nice, but the sound is also very fitting. There are several different types of sound coming from this game: engine, voice actors, background music, and the water. Within the options bar, you can set the volume and sound for each element, a truly great option. For those jet skiers who love to rev their engines, here’s your chance. Set the volume to high, and you can hear the nice jet ski sounds when you accelerate. Not only does the engine sound absolutely mouth-watering, but the background music is also very well-suited to each environment. For instance, in the dinosaur level, you heard tunes akin to the “Jurassic Park” theme. The only portion of the sound that I really disliked would be the voice actors, who sound like perfect beach bums, but they really grated on my nerves. Let’s just say that they don’t sound like the brightest crayons in the box. At least it’s not horrid like the voice acting from Disgaea’s Penguins (the horrors!). Overall, the music fits perfectly for this genre and makes playing the levels much more enjoyable.
Overall, this game is great. It was extremely fun to play, but I have to admit that watching the scenery and listening to the music was much better. If you are looking for a water sports game, this one may be for you. How can you go wrong with a game supporting both Dolby and HDTV and has good replay value, requiring the player to unlock a bunch of items? This game might be aimed towards a younger audience, but it should be fun for all who truly enjoy jet skiing. Give this game a shot, and you may be pleasantly surprised. It may have slightly slow load time but stick with it because these tracks deserve it.