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by Infogrames

i_water_Screen1-01.jpg (6074 bytes)Rainbow Studios does "extreme" racing better than just about anyone. Whether on four wheels, two wheels, on dirt or on water, Rainbow Studios knows how to make games that are the best in their respective niche. Splashdown is no exception. All of the best parts of Motocross Madness and ATV Offroad Fury are implemented here with a heavy dose of amazing looking water to produce one of the best jet-ski games on the market.

2-01.jpg (6388 bytes)The first thing that people will notice when they start playing Splashdown is just how great the water looks. This is the best, most realistic water that has ever been seen in a videogame. Wave Race: Blue Storm on the Gamecube may have bigger waves, but they don’t look as good as the waves in Splashdown. The characters and their watercraft are all well done and merge seamlessly with the great looking shorelines and superb looking water. The only real complaints about the graphics are that, unlike Wave Race, the shorelines and everything else are not reflected on the water; only the sky is reflected. This isn’t much of a problem though. The only other complaint is that Splashdown only moves at 30 frames per second. It never deviates from 30 fps, but on hardware like the PS2, it is a bit questionable why they didn’t go ahead and make the game 60 fps. Again, this isn’t all that important, and unless you look really hard, you won’t even notice it. Overall, the graphics are exceptionally well done.

i_water_Screen4-01.jpg (6636 bytes)The gameplay in Splashdown proves that Rainbow Studios can make the same magic on water that they did on dirt. The controls are easy to learn and do a good job of representing how it feels to ride a real Sea-Doo. You pull back on the stick to make your rider lean back and cause the Sea-Doo to hydroplane on the water, thus going faster. Also, by pressing up on the stick, you make your rider lean forward causing you to slow down and make sharper turns. When you get big air off of one of the many ramps in each course, you can perform tricks that boost your performance meter, which increases your top speed and acceleration. Going around each of the buoys also adds a bit to your performance meter while missing one takes a big chunk out of your performance meter, and if you don’t have enough meter left, your craft will stall for a few seconds. It takes a combination of all of these techniques in order to make it to the front and win races on any difficulty other than easy.

1-01.jpg (7087 bytes)There are several modes available in Splashdown, with the meat and potatoes of the gameplay being the career mode where you build a team of world class Sea-Doo racers in a season of 12-20 races--depending on which difficulty you are playing on. In arcade mode, you can participate in events like countdown, where you race around a certain number of buoys before time expires, and time attack, as well as just running single races. The arcade mode can be played with one or two players, and while multiplayer games are a nice diversion, they are nothing special.

4-01.jpg (7276 bytes)The sound in Splashdown is fairly good. The music includes bands like Sum 41, Smash Mouth, SR-71, and Blink 182. I found that the soundtrack suits the gameplay and doesn’t detract from the game at all, and that really is all you can ask from the music in a game. The Sea-Doos sound great and their crashes and splashes on the water are all perfect. The only aspect of the sound that isn’t all that great is the comments occasionally screamed out by the riders. And when I say scream, I mean it. The sound bytes just sound far too loud in comparison to everything else that is going on. They usually involve the characters stating how "extreme" they are, but they are repeated far too often and become very annoying after a while.

i_water_Screen3-01.jpg (7400 bytes)Now, that has been all nice and fairly positive, and here is where reality sets in. Despite the fact that Splashdown has all of the mechanics right, it sounds, looks, and feels right, it’s major flaw is that it is fairly boring. The courses are all nicely designed, but after the second race in the career mode, I was already losing interest in the game. The monotony is broken somewhat by "arena" levels where you choose an opponent and race around a course with banked turns and jumps aplenty. But even these races were only fun for a while. Racing on water just isn’t as fun as racing on other surfaces. Once you learn the controls, it is just a matter or applying them over and over and over on each of the courses and you’ll win. I know the same thing can be said about other racing games, but they usually feature vehicles that can be upgraded or at least feel dramatically different from one to the next. Splashdown’s craft all feel pretty much the same, and I simply became bored after a while.

i_water_Screen2-01.jpg (8067 bytes)Splashdown does a lot of things right. The graphics, especially the water, are extremely well done. The sound and controls are good. But it suffers from being too repetitive. I may be alone in this opinion, but racing on water kind of sucks. When I first started playing the game, I could tell that everything was in place and that it could be a great game. But after a few hours, I lost interest. I recommend renting Splashdown first, and if it keeps you entertained for a weekend, buy it. But if you are bored of it after a few hours, like I did, forget about it and go back to playing Tony Hawk 3 or Metal Gear Solid 2.

Eric Qualls   (12/21/2001)


Ups: Great water effects; excellent control; nice soundtrack.

Downs: Might get a little dull after awhile; not enough variety in vehicles.

Platform: Sony PS2