Splashdown

a game by Atari Co., and Rainbow Arts Software GmbH
Platforms: XBox Playstation 2 PC
Editor Rating: 7/10, based on 3 reviews
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Overview

It may be winter outside, but it’s time to slip into your wetsuit and hit the waves. Atari’s entry into the fun-filled world of Sea-Doo racing, arcade style, lets you blast through the waters of Bali, tear it up over the Great Barrier Reef, and maneuver through the Venice Canals. Steer your watercraft over water that looks so real you’ll want to wear a swimsuit. Catch massive air as you jump wakes and launch off ramps, and then pull off insane stunts like the Metronome and the Cyclone. Battle your way to the finish line on 18 detailed courses scattered around the globe. You're going to need skill and style to reach to top -- do you have what it takes?

Gameplay, Controls, Interface

The first thing you'll see when booting up Splashdown is a warning that the stunts and watercraft driving depicted in the game aren’t realistic, so don’t try them at home. Okay, I’ll give them that. The game is not focused on the realistic -- what it is, is just plain fun. Take the controls of a powerful Sea-Doo watercraft and get ready for action.

Apart from being fun, Splashdown's biggest strength is its driving mechanics. This is where the game does touch on the realistic. Winning isn’t just a matter of pointing the watercraft in the right direction and opening the throttle to full. There are a variety of driving tricks that impact the outcome. For example, pulling the nose up as you approach top speed will cause you to hydroplane and go substantially faster. But you have to time things right, pull back too early or on rough water and instead of a speed boost you’ll start skipping across the water, slowing down on each bounce. The watercraft’s steering is also very well done. Just like the real thing, turning requires you to have the throttle at least partially open. Going slow, tight turns are possible, but at speed you’ve got to have a lot more room. To win you’ve got to take a different tack. Dipping the nose of the ski into the water slightly as you start your turn will allow a much sharper turn while still maintaining most of your speed. Once you’ve mastered the basics of getting where you need to go it’s time to take on the tricks.

Most of the tricks in Splashdown are easiest performed off one of the many jumps throughout the courses. Each time you complete a trick, a performance meter located to the right of your speed gauge will fill up a bit. As the meter fills, the overall performance of your watercraft increases, giving you a bit of an edge. The performance meter can also help shave your lap times by allowing you to skip buoy checkpoints located throughout the game. Each buoy clearly indicates which side you’re supposed to pass on. Passing on the wrong side drops your performance meter or, if you’re meter is out, stalls your Sea-Doo temporarily. Keeping the meter high with lots of tricks allows you to shave distance off your route by taking shortcuts behind buoys. The courses are rich and varied, each with details and hidden secrets that are worth taking the time in free-ride mode to search for. One of my favorite course features is how the edge of the map is handled. As you near the end of the defined game world the "Jaws" theme starts playing. Keep going and a huge octopus-like arm of some hidden sea monster rises out of the water and slaps you back into the center of the map. Silly, but a touch that I found very amusing.

Graphics

Splashdown looks good too. The Sea-Doo riders and models are detailed and smoothly animated. The water throughout the courses is some of the best I’ve seen on the PS2, undulating waves are quite clear, the watercraft wakes look right, and foam laps onto the shore and around objects in the game. With the many varied course locations, you’ve got water that ranges from the deep grey-green of a slow moving river through the clear water of an artificial pool to the Caribbean blue waters off the Florida keys. My only complaint is that the game really pushes the PS2’s capabilities. -- there is noticeable slowdown and framerate stuttering in tight races when you're trying to take a turn along with a few competitors.

Audio

There are bits of everything in the game's sound effects. From hints of German Polka music around the Rhine River course to screeching gulls, the environmental effects are nicely done. The watercraft’s sounds are varied and well done, with one glaring exception. Every single time you crash your watercraft into something (or someone) the sound effect is exactly the same. Not that’s it’s a huge problem, but I did start crashing into everything I could find just to see if I could get the game to make a different noise. Another area that got annoying after a bit was with the cracks the riders made as they pulled of tricks, took spills, or mouthed off to their opponents. The comments became repetitive fairly quickly. As with the crash sound this isn’t a big issue, but definitely could have used improvement.

Bottom Line

Splashdown is a lot of fun to play. The controls are easy to learn, races are challenging without being unbeatably difficult, and the terrain is rich and varied, with enough detail and eye candy to pull you into the game world. The game is worth renting for a weekend to see the water effects alone, and if you’ve wanted to try your hand at a water racing title it’s definitely worth your time.

Game Reviews

Overview

It may be winter outside, but it's time to slip into your wetsuit and hit the waves. Atari's entry into the fun-filled world of Sea-Doo racing, arcade style, lets you blast through the waters of Bali, tear it up over the Great Barrier Reef, and maneuver through the Venice Canals. Steer your watercraft over water that looks so real you'll want to wear a swimsuit. Catch massive air as you jump wakes and launch off ramps, and then pull off insane stunts like the Metronome and the Cyclone. Battle your way to the finish line on 18 detailed courses scattered around the globe. You're going to need skill and style to reach to top -- do you have what it takes?

Gameplay, Controls, Interface

The first thing you'll see when booting up Splashdown is a warning that the stunts and watercraft driving depicted in the game aren't realistic, so don't try them at home. Okay, I'll give them that. The game is not focused on the realistic -- what it is, is just plain fun. Take the controls of a powerful Sea-Doo watercraft and get ready for action.

Apart from being fun, Splashdown's biggest strength is its driving mechanics. This is where the game does touch on the realistic. Winning isn't just a matter of pointing the watercraft in the right direction and opening the throttle to full. There are a variety of driving tricks that impact the outcome. For example, pulling the nose up as you approach top speed will cause you to hydroplane and go substantially faster. But you have to time things right, pull back too early or on rough water and instead of a speed boost you'll start skipping across the water, slowing down on each bounce.

The watercraft's steering is also very well done. Just like the real thing, turning requires you to have the throttle at least partially open. Going slow, tight turns are possible, but at speed you've got to have a lot more room. To win you've got to take a different tack. Dipping the nose of the ski into the water slightly as you start your turn will allow a much sharper turn while still maintaining most of your speed. Once you've mastered the basics of getting where you need to go it's time to take on the tricks.

Most of the tricks in Splashdown are easiest performed off one of the many jumps throughout the courses. Each time you complete a trick, a performance meter located to the right of your speed gauge will fill up a bit. As the meter fills, the overall performance of your watercraft increases, giving you a bit of an edge. The performance meter can also help shave your lap times by allowing you to skip buoy checkpoints located throughout the game. Each buoy clearly indicates which side you're supposed to pass on. Passing on the wrong side drops your performance meter or, if you're meter is out, stalls your Sea-Doo temporarily. Keeping the meter high with lots of tricks allows you to shave distance off your route by taking shortcuts behind buoys.

The courses are rich and varied, each with details and hidden secrets that are worth taking the time in free-ride mode to search for. One of my favorite course features is how the edge of the map is handled. As you near the end of the defined game world the 'Jaws'? theme starts playing. Keep going and a huge octopus-like arm of some hidden sea monster rises out of the water and slaps you back into the center of the map. Silly, but a touch that I found very amusing.

Graphics

Splashdown looks good too. The Sea-Doo riders and models are detailed and smoothly animated. The water throughout the courses is some of the best I've seen on the PS2, undulating waves are quite clear, the watercraft wakes look right, and foam laps onto the shore and around objects in the game. With the many varied course locations, you've got water that ranges from the deep grey-green of a slow moving river through the clear water of an artificial pool to the Caribbean blue waters off the Florida keys. My only complaint is that the game really pushes the PS2's capabilities. -- there is noticeable slowdown and framerate stuttering in tight races when you're trying to take a turn along with a few competitors.

Audio

There are bits of everything in the game's sound effects. From hints of German Polka music around the Rhine River course to screeching gulls, the environmental effects are nicely done. The watercraft's sounds are varied and well done, with one glaring exception. Every single time you crash your watercraft into something (or someone) the sound effect is exactly the same. Not that's it's a huge problem, but I did start crashing into everything I could find just to see if I could get the game to make a different noise.

Another area that got annoying after a bit was with the cracks the riders made as they pulled of tricks, took spills, or mouthed off to their opponents. The comments became repetitive fairly quickly. As with the crash sound this isn't a big issue, but definitely could have used improvement.

Bottom Line

Splashdown is a lot of fun to play. The controls are easy to learn, races are challenging without being unbeatably difficult, and the terrain is rich and varied, with enough detail and eye candy to pull you into the game world. The game is worth renting for a weekend to see the water effects alone, and if you've wanted to try your hand at a water racing title it's definitely worth your time.

I am a sucker for a good racing game. For some reason, I find myself most intrigued by racing games that stray off the beaten path. Whether it be motocross racing, rally racing or in the case of Splashdown, Sea Doo racing. I missed out on the PlayStation 2 version so when I had the opportunity to review the Xbox version, I jumped all over it.

For those not familiar with Splashdown, it is an arcade racing game that takes place on water over 20 tracks. The game tries to place a heavy emphasis on the trick system, but frankly, I just found the tricks slowed me down. I don't mind games that have a trick system but do not force you to use the tricks to win races and thankfully such was the case with Splashdown. If pulling off tricks is your thing, more power to ya, and you should have a great time learning the umpteen tricks in each riders repertoire.

Since I prefer the pure racing aspect of the game to the tricks, I ended up fairly satisfied but did feel there was room for improvement. Some of the tracks felt as if they were designed to promote tricks and others just felt' boring. However, some tracks have just the right mix of carefully placed obstacles, sharp turns, high jumps and long straight-aways. My favorite tracks were the in-door areas that felt like you were racing around a double-decker swimming pool. Very cool.

The biggest selling point of the game is unquestionably the graphics and more specifically the water. The water in this game looks so realistic that it almost defies words. The waves roll in off the open sea with amazing detail and the transparent surfaces allow you to see objects underwater. Unfortunately the spray particle effects leave quite a bit to be desired. If they could have cleaned this up a bit, I would be hard pressed to find a better-looking game.

All in all, this is a fun little racing game that will offer up fun for both trick aficionados as well as racing purists. The water will keep you in constant awe and the races provide just the right challenge. A few tweaks in the track design and graphics would have helped out but there is still a good time to be had here.

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