Imagine my disappointment when I realized that Splashdown: Rides Gone Wild was in no way affiliated with Girls Gone Wild. No sexy sorority sweethearts here. Luckily what I did get was a pretty decent racing game with a trick game twist. I'm not really sure how amusement park rides and jet skis ever got matched together but it definitely is different.
Here's what happens: you are cruising along through the amusement park on your jet ski when all of a sudden, yeah you guessed it, the rides go wild (we have already suspended our disbelief so we will move on from how silly that sounds). But that's ok because that just means you get to play some of the most outlandish, vibrant, and well imagined race tracks this side of a Mario Kart track. But don't expect Mario Kart gameplay. Splashdown plays much closer to a sim and that includes its diverse trick system that maintains the realistic feel. It all adds up to an unusual mix: zany racetracks and realistic gameplay.
I first sat down to play the game without going through any of the training and quickly found myself getting trampled. This is a game where the player definitely benefits from spending a couple of extra minutes in the training sessions. The game has an intricate trick system with tons of tricks, divided into three tiers, and lots to master on the racing front. The training mode makes learning all this easy and keeps it all from being overwhelming. After training you will begin to fully appreciate the menagerie of things that you can do with your Jet Ski.
This is really important because you need to keep tricking in order to keep your performance meter up. If your performance meter slips, then guess what? Your performance begins to slip. Your Jet Ski slows down and becomes hard to maneuver. If you are looking to just race, then you are out of luck. You have got to trick to win these races.
That is all fine and good, but for me the real bread and butter of Splashdown: Rides Gone Wild is the race track designs. There is so much going on in these tracks that it is staggering, literally. There are times when it borders on too much but never the less it is always amazing. There is little to compare to dodging back and forth between dinosaur legs as they sip from the river on a level that borrows heavily from Jurassic Park. That is only one of the many breathtaking and imaginative levels the Rainbow Studios has cooked up for Splashdown players.
There are a couple of detractors from Splashdown. The first that stands out is the loading time. As load times keep getting shorter and shorter perhaps I am getting spoiled, but the load times in Splashdown are much too long for my taste. Also the game seems to be peppered with spots to load. I felt like I wasted a lot of valuable playing time sitting and waiting.
The next thing that had me reaching for the cotton balls where the annoying voiceovers. If game designers insist on having the lamest scripts in the world why don't they just leave the voices off. Does anybody really appreciate them? Even if there is a particularly clever quip it is far from entertaining once you've heard for the thousandth time before you have even finished the first level. At least most games give you the option of turning the voiceover volume all the way down, but come on guys, give voiceovers a decent script or give them death.
The last thing that irked me about this game came after losing a race. Once again I found myself playing a game with a set number of continues. To me this is an outdated concept. I find nothing more frustrating than having to play through levels I have long since mastered, over and over again to get to the level that I need to practice on. This detracts from the replayability factor because after a while I am just going to walk away (typically after chucking a controller at the television). It would be much nicer if you could save your progress and try again, walk away and come back, or even go back and play a favorite level at any time. Some people might feel that it adds to the difficulty of the game and is thus important, but I just find it frustrating.
Other than the ever-present, ever-annoying voiceovers, the sound for Splashdown: Rides Gone Wild is pretty good. It offers Stereo and Dolby Pro Logic II as aural vehicles for an all new sound track that is fun and plays well with the game (not to mention being a little different that the standard mix of licensed music or cheesy mind numbing techno).
They really didn't skimp when it came to this game. Not only are there tons of tricks to master but there are enough game modes and unlockable features to keep you busy for hours. There are two career modes (indoor and outdoor), Technical Trials, Freestyle, versus mode, and the already mention training mode. As you progress through the game, you will also be able to unlock new characters and new jet skis. It is pretty impressive and gives you much to do, adding to the replay value. This isn't a game that you will tear right through and then never pick up again.
If this type of game is your cup of tea, then Rainbow Studios' Splashdown: Rides Gone Wild is definitely worth adding to your collection (just be sure you aren't buying it under the assumption it is the video game answer to Girls Gone Wild). There are tons of single player modes and goals for you to obtain and a versus mode for when you have company. The PS2 has little like this, and Splashdown is definitely better than those that are similar. It's not a perfect game, but it is a very solid one.