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Score: 97%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Infogrames
Developer: Rainbow Studios
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Racing

Graphics & Sound:
There hasn't been a watercraft title since the stellar Wave Race 64 for the N64, but now there could be a little competition on the PS2 in the form of Splashdown.

Not knowing what to expect, I slid in the Splashdown disc hoping for at least a decent looking racer. After the game loaded, my roommate passed out and I wet my pants on the spot. The game looks that good. After waking up (and in my case cleaning up) we stammered a few kindergarten words like did, I'd, cat what, you - it's before managing to say 'game look good!' I think it was the water that made us recede to a toddler-level vocabulary. I'm getting emotional just trying to describe it right now. Try to remember the last time you were at a large body of water like a lake or a river. Now take the sparkling, the random waving motion, the splashing and the reflections and imagine them looking exactly the same in a videogame. I thought Metal Gear Solid 2 and Ico had incredible water effects but Splashdown is somehow able to blow them away. It would be easy to look at the water effects and say that Splashdown is a terrific looking game but when the rest of the game is considered, the game looks, well... fantastic! I'm glad that all the work didn't go into having the best looking water effects, but into having the best looking game. You have to consider that the actual price of the game could be considerably higher than the retail cost after you have to go to the doctor to have your jaw re-attached when it falls on the floor, though. So after you go to the doctor, (take the Game Boy Advance to help you through the surgery) go back home and try to look a little deeper. Notice the way that the characters are exquisitely animated and the fact that there aren't any jaggies and how the textures look great? Good, you have eyes - those were obvious, I'm talking a little deeper. Good! You got it. The sun flare, the misting of the water off the back of your officially licensed Ski Doo, all of the little elements are there. It's like my mom used to always say: 'Splashdown puts the graphical smack down on all the other foo's - Woomp!' I always dismissed it as some mindless drabble, but now that the game Splashdown is out, she actually makes sense.

Know what a Ski Doo sounds like? Well it's the opposite of a Ski Don't. Just kidding! If you want to know, you gotta be down with the Splashdown. The game features the true to life sound effects that you as a hardcore gamer would demand. Much like with Gran Turismo I found myself making high pitched vroom - schick - shuck (shifting) - vroom sounds. The water sound effects are also great and aren't overpowering when compared to the engine sounds and the soundtrack. And the soundtrack, oh the soundtrack! Usually not a fan of the 'punk' genre, I was turned off at first but after a couple races I yearned to be the girl at the rock show. Even if you don't like punk music you will most likely appreciate Splashdown's soundtrack. If you do like punk, the game will only be the cost of a Hurley T - shirt, so go out and get it! Each character is voiced with a small degrees of success. The voices are simple, boring and regular in every way. They don't subtract from the game, but I bet they could have saved 12 bucks in production costs by not hiring the mediocre actors that they did.

Rainbow Studios' previous PS2 effort, ATV Off-Road Fury was a stellar title and I expected Splashdown to play in a similar manner, and to some degree it does. All of the same elements are there, like gas, steering and the ability to do tricks but it feels completely different because of the water. The meat and potatoes of the game is the Season mode. Simply select a rider and a difficulty level to start racing on the 18 different tracks. Much like other racers, you will also find Arcade and Two Player modes. Much in the same vein as SSX, Splashdown features an adrenaline meter that rewards you for doing tricks by boosting your speed. This can make a substantial difference in your speed. Another way to boost your speed is to plane out your boat by pulling back and hydroplaning over the water after reaching a certain speed. Simply do some tricks and pull back on the stick to plane, and you can use the competition's faces to wax your Ski Doo. The trick system works well by making use of three of the shoulder buttons in combination with a directional button to pull off the trick. As you would imagine, these tricks can only be done by people with double jointed legs like Metal Gear Ray and floppy arms like a Jim Henson puppet, which is to say that you and I can't do them in real life. But then again that's why we play videogames now isn't it? Although the gameplay is as tight as can be, there are a couple problems. The first is with the modes of play. I would have liked to see a stunt mode like in Waverace 64. Not having a stunt mode doesn't break the game by any means, but it would have been nice. The second problem is with the level design. Most of the levels are varied, but a couple of them look similar and most of them play the same. Also there could have been a lot more waves. It was a rare occurrence to find some natural waves to mix up the race and some levels didn't even have waves except for the other racers wakes. Also it would have been nice to have some outlandish tracks with 100 foot waterfalls and the like too. Those problems are small though and are almost negligible when considering how well the game plays.

Playing the Season mode on the easy setting, I was able to place first in all 12 races simply by charging up the boost meter and hydroplaning on every straight. Easy is just that - easy. The other difficulty settings luckily gave me more of a challenge, and the hard setting was, well... hard. This is one of those games where the difficulty settings are true. Thanks to a solid control setup, the tricks were a breeze to pull off. I can't stand those games where you sit in the air for four seconds mashing on the controller with no results until you pull off a trick one foot off the ground and crash, breaking your face so you look like Carrot Top for the rest of your virtual life. (If you are a devout Carrot Top fan and I have insulted you, please call me up by dialing down the center.)

Game Mechanics:
Swift saves, analog support, and quick load times - they're all here. I would have liked an auto save function though so I didn't have to tell the game that yes, I did want to overwrite the current existing save data while not turning off the system, removing the memory card or pouring orange juice in the USB ports. (I added that last part because I almost did it once. Take heed fellow gamers.) The controls work as smoothly as a big smooth thing that you like to hold because of the smoothness, and you take special care not to drop it because it's not only smooth, but shiny too. It could be said that the controls are like a clean dinner plate. Up and down can tilt your rider forward and back respectively. Since there are no brakes on a Ski Doo, I found the best way to make a sharp turn from high speeds was to dip the nose underwater to create some drag and then crank the handlebars and gun it. The trick system works as seamless as a wetsuit, but a lot of tricks are the same ones as found in ATV Off-Road Fury. That isn't to say the tricks aren't fun, but if you've played both games, they can turn stale.

What Guys Thinks: Waverace 64 was one of the better titles on the Nintendo 64 and I haven't really met anyone that said they didn't like it. 64 bits after that we have Splashdown and it plays even better. This is a sheer delight that I am proud to own and you can be assured that it will get my vote for the 2001 Top 10. *Coming Soon!*

-Joe Guys, GameVortex Communications
AKA Joe Labani

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