Sporting (only a little pun
intended) some very impressive graphics, an adequate physics system, and the Transworld
name, Transworld Surf has been scoring some rather solid reviews. This amazes me. While
certainly the best surfing game that I have ever played, regardless of the system, and
while the basic action of the game is admittedly entertaining, I found Transworld Surf
limited enough in scope and game play that a good review seemed impossible. Yet
consistently I see that reviewers have been giving it competent scores, sighting the good
graphics and atmosphere, and noting only slight drawbacks in the difficulty and execution
of the game play. Fair warning, then, that this reviewer was far less impressed with
Infograms Transworld Surf than seems to be the general surface consensus. In light
of some of the other boarding sports games in existence (Tony Hawk, Amped) Transworld Surf
simply doesnt have the long lasting appeal and breadth of gameplay that should be
present in any good game on a system as capable as the Xbox. Half a year from now, when
other games are on the market, Transworld Surf will be the first game most players will
pick out of their collection as the one they could do without.
The story behind Transworld Surf is
nothing unusual to this style of game. It places you in the role of one of thirteen of
worlds most talented surfers, all competing with one another in the Transworld Surf
World Tour. As is to be expected, the entirety of the gameplay takes place on the waves,
where you work to earn points by performing various tricks and combinations, and
occasionally attempting to accomplish limited goal-oriented tasks. The game offers four
basic game modes: Competition (Pro Tour), Single Session, Free Surf, and Multiplayer.
Unfortunately, these varying modes do little to expand the actual play of the game-- the
major difference between them being that in one you surf with a time limit and other
competing surfers (competition), in another you surf by yourself with a time limit (Single
Session), and finally you can surf by yourself with no time limit (Free Surf). While the
Pro Tour does ask you to attempt occasional goal oriented tasks, such as freeing a dolphin
from a net by surfing over it, the three modes are virtually interchangeable, and nearly
all play the same. It would have been nice to have multiple styles of play. The lack of
variety is an overall limitation to the life span of Transworld Surf, as it will tend to
grow stale rather quickly (within days) after you start playing.
Surf is, however, blessed with truly beautiful graphics in the in-game engine. The way the
water reflects and ripples, spraying off the tail of your surfboard as you cut through the
water to the beat of the games very competent soundtrack is really very well done.
The games overall atmosphere shines brightest during the few brief seconds at the
opening of each surfing location when the camera circles the beach and an announcer
introduces the local, complete with the misty fog and sprays in the right places at the
right time. The graphics of the menu system are less impressive, reminding me somewhat of
the original interfaces of the old Nintendo systems back in the day, with the exception of
the full motion video that plays in the background of the menu display. The games
developers appeared to have a great fondness for motion video, since an expansive list of
commercials and advertisements are available to watch under the options menu. While I
found this feature to be sort of enjoyable, I felt that half the substance of the game
disc came from these selections, as if the disc were only half a game and half a
collection of videos.
are easy to handle and enjoyable. Combination tricks are linked together relatively easily
and are not intimidating, which is good since the games competition mode would be
impossible without them. The physics system worked rather well, despite a tendency for
your surfer to suddenly wipe out for no apparent reason. These elements do give Transworld
Surf the position of best surfing game Ive ever played. Dont jump to
conclusions, though. That title, regardless of how it sounds, is not necessarily one of
prestige. Surfing games of the past have not been known to make waves, so topping them
wasnt that hard. While holding the crown for its area of the gaming world, it still
falls far short when held up in comparison to other games on the market.
for this falls into two main categories: difficulty and diversity. First is difficulty.
Transworld Surf has a very steep learning curve with a top that very well may be beyond
the reach of the time that people are willing to put into it. For example, the first
"level", which is the first beach in the Pro Tour competition, requires that you
meet a series of goals before continuing on to the next beach. These include acquiring a
certain number of points in a limited time and performing various tricks. While this
sounds easy, it takes a great deal of practice before these goals become reachable. This
makes for a very frustrating first few hours. After you reach what most would feel to be a
level of competence, you go on into the first competition rounds in which you must place
first in order to progress to the next beach. Here you discover that all of your skills
from earlier play are woefully inadequate to the task, as your dismal scores consistently
land you in last place. Since alternate beaches are locked, even in free or single surf
modes, until they are reached through the Pro Tour mode, the player is really stuck to
surfing the same waves over and over. Any game that asks you to spend over three hours on
a first level that has a maximum run time of three minutes contains a serious design flaw.
Which brings me
to my second point: diversity. Transworld Surf lacks it. While the locations are
atmospheric and well rendered, they all have the exact same gameplay. The waves all look
about alike. Dont get me wrong because the basics behind the gameplay are
entertaining. It is indeed fun to play on the waves after youve mastered a little of
the controls, but it is fun in the same way that Tic-Tack-Toe is fun. After the first few
games things become threadbare. Combine this with the steep learning curve that asks that
you spend an exuberant amount of time perfecting your skills before you can progress in
the game, and you simply have a very bad combination. In much the same way that we will
always return to playing Tic-Tack-Toe when we are bored, Transworld Surf is a game that
will come out only occasionally after the novelty wears off--and even then only briefly.
The design team
attempted to counteract this lack of diversity by adding relatively simple and ineffective
details such as the Karma Meter. If you interfere with other surfers and sea life, your
karma will go down, ultimately leading to other surfers knocking you from your board and
shark attacks. However, since it is really hard to get your karma meter to go bad, it
makes very little difference in the way the game plays. Aside from that, the shark attacks
arent nearly as cool as they should have been, and happen rarely anyway.
Transworld Surf has good graphics and a good control layout. The basics of the game are
entertaining, as opposed to some other surfing games whose basics are actually annoying.
However, the learning curve demands too much without giving enough in return. If you
really enjoy surfing games and are willing to battle it out, you might consider this an ok
game, but when your friends come over to play an hour of Xbox, theyll almost always
want to play something else within the hour. My prediction, which is opposite almost every
other review Ive read, is that this game will be one of the first sold from the
average collection when the next wave of games leaves us looking for quick cash to help us
afford them. It simply doesnt have the staying power.