While its cinematic namesake drowned in a low-grossing tide at the box office, Surf's Up the videogame manages to keep it's head well above water. Although, that said, its technique is more amateur splash than an Olympian stroke. A family-orientated racer, this game is a great introduction to extreme sports for kids, with a steady undercurrent of 'guilty pleasure' for older gamers and parents.
This is because it's an incredibly likeable little game, supplanting Tony Hawk stunt mechanics to an oceanic racecourse. While you can already get big air thrills and gnarly tricks in the likes of SSX Blur, Surf's Up introduces its own unique take on the genre which crucially makes it distinct from other Hawk-wannabes. This takes the form of a massive tidal wave. This force of nature will be both ally and nemesis to your chosen rider on each of the race courses.
Catch A Wave
The wave, several penguins in height, rolls in from either the left or right of the screen once the race starts. Your goal is to keep ahead of it as it slowly sweeps across the racecourse. You do this by utilising its half-pipe capabilities, surfing up and off it and chaining tricks while in the air, which will fill up an on-screen boost bar. The more stunts you perform, the more points you get and the greater your speed increases - and therefore the more air you'll get off the wave. It's a cycle that's been seen before in the Tony Hawk series, but things aren't that simple in Surf's Up.
There's more to each track than one continuous wave. As we've said, it will gradually travel across the screen; screw up your landing back onto the sea a few times and your lack of speed will see you gradually hemmed in on one side of the racecourse as the wave continues it course. You'll then learn to appreciate the debris that litters each stage - icebergs, cliffs, even wooden huts are weaved throughout each and present a significant danger unless navigated speedily. There might be times when the only way for you to go is head first into a wall - animal cruelty at its worst.
Steering through these will lead you to discover grind ramps, bonus gates and multiplier collectables - all of which rack huge bonuses onto your overall score.
See, while you will be racing other competitors, it's your final stunt score at
the end of each race that's the important factor. Each race has three separate challenges, usually two score-related and one tasking you to collect certain items (such as picking up seal statues or passing through a certain number of gates).
Doing two or all three, unlocks new boards, riders and racecourses. It means that each course is expanded by a factor of three - do you play for a high score, try to explore the course for hidden items as you race by or do you try and complete as many tasks as possible?
Surf's Up does have it's problems though. There's a sense of inevitable frustration when you jump off a wave and sail straight into an unavoidable wall and the few seconds you spend in the air makes you wish that the draw distance was a bit further. There also isn't a huge number of courses, despite breaking them into five separate areas, and even the hardest courses wont present much of a challenge to seasoned gamers.
But all in all, it's an enjoyable diversion. In the true spirit of a British vacation, it's overpriced and not as exciting as stated
on the brochure but you'll still come away with some fond memories and you'll be glad you tried it.