This has been
the summer of the "new hotness." And Im not just talking about Will
Smith. Wildfires rage on in the West, global warming is getting worse
every year, and the East coast has experienced their perennial heatwaves,
killing off old people and dogs locked in cars. Also newly re-heated is
the Atari brand, which was scooped up by Infogrames just over a year ago
and has been thoroughly invigorated with some great new titles. We first
saw Splashdown on the PlayStation 2, competing directly with Wave Race:
Blue Storm on the Gamecube. In many ways I enjoyed Splashdown better
than Wave Race, and now that the game has been released for the Xbox and
I have spent the past month working to master it, I can definitely say
that it is a good title. I can also say that during the heat of the day,
playing a game like Splashdown will make you feel cooler (although be
aware that playing a personal watercraft racing videogame does not
actually enhance your "cool").
you racing Sea Doo jet skis on 20 different courses, varying from Lake
Powell in Utah to indoor tracks in exotic locales. Youll race in
beautiful coves and bays, through high-traffic shipping areas, and
across swamps. All of the scenery is gorgeous, and the course design is
very good. There are hidden areas and shortcuts to take advantage of.
Each course is very large, too, which makes for long tracks where pretty
much anything can happen. You could maintain a good position for most of
the race and lose it at the end, or you could come back in a triumphant
redemption. Anything is possible.
easy to pick up and tight. Splashdown pretty much drives like you would
expect it hit the gas and go. You can lean back to hydroplane on the
water, getting an essential speed boost in more open track areas.
Leaning forward helps you take those tight corners very quickly but
slows you down a bit. The most fun aspect of the control is a robust
trick system that allows you to pull off insane combos over huge jumps.
Theres nothing like pulling a really sweet two-footed can-can over a
stone bridge as your competitors pass below you. If you get really good
you can even move the camera around your character to capture that
perfectly dramatic angle. And, to make the tricks worth attempting, you
go faster if you maintain a good pattern of executing tricks without
There is a
total of nine characters available in the game, although youll have to
unlock most of them by playing. Each character has a unique look and
feel, and each has a different set of comments. Some of them, like that
French guy, are hilarious to listen to as you race. Of course, like all
good catchphrase action, it gets old after awhile. But these characters
will make you giggle the first time around the track.
There are the
typical modes of gameplay. A multiplayer mode allows you to take on a
friend or three. The main mode puts you through a series of twelve
races. This takes forever to complete, and you really need to do it at
least once for each character in order to bust this game completely
open. So theres a lot of single player action, and the courses are
interesting enough to keep you playing through the first couple
characters at least. After that, it becomes a bit of a chore, but how
can you really complain because the courses are too big and there are
too many of them? The free ride mode is actually very well-done, and
conveys an incredible sense of freedom. Just for fun I purposefully
drove my Sea Doo as far into the open ocean as possible, which worked
until I was unceremoniously batted back to the course area by a
disembodied, and huge, tentacle. The sense of humor conveyed in
Splashdown is wonderful, and pervades every aspect of the game.
The sound is
very well done. The Sea Doo engines whine appropriately, and character
comments are fun. In addition, the game supports your soundtrack,
although it may seem like it doesnt at first. Rather than allowing you
to pick a soundtrack to play, it runs through its own pop-punk tunes and
then starts playing your saved soundtracks. This is perfect because
after a few races youve burned through the stock soundtrack.
Splashdown is an excellent game. If you like racers, and especially if
you like water-based racers, you should definitely check this one out.
The beautiful graphics, tight gameplay, and lots of variety make it a
title well worth spending some time with. As the dog days of summer wear
off, Splashdown might just be able to make you feel a bit hotter in the