Here's the problem with Gameplay: There isn't any!! I can't believe how thin the total offering is here. With short courses and no variation in what you're trying to do between Start and Finish, Surfing H3O
left me asking where the rest of the game went... Starting out, you can either enter the Tournament or play in Vs. Mode. Although Vs. is supposed to be the 2-Player action, you have to pass a controller back-and-forth and compete for best time on the same wave. Tournament has you pick a surfer and board and run through courses collecting items and pulling off tricks. Problem is, the characters all feel the same, and I never got the impression that picking a different board made any impact on performance. Likewise, item-collecting provides zero entertainment and courses are too short to provide fertile ground for fun with tricks.
As you run each course, the items you look for are big colorful floating balls. Because they're different colors, you can earn extra points for getting complete sets in a single color. Tricks also earn you points, and happen when you launch off the face of a wave and press shoulder buttons. Much like some of the other 'board' games we've played (snow or skate), Surfing H3O riders do a mean Indy, Method, Mute, etc. The animations for these tricks are cool, especially because you don't have to worry much about landing and can just check out the show. Certain courses are better suited to tricks because of how the wave is moving. In others, you have to put most of your effort into staying on the board and grabbing items. The tricks are cool, but imagine a skateboarding game where you had to spend the whole time in a halfpipe. After you've run the courses, it all starts looking the same. Tricks are done one way only, and although the waves move differently, courses are starving for variety. No obstacles, no other surfers, no sharks... I mean, where's all the other stuff that could have gone into the experience?
Only a handful of surfers are available at first, but you can unlock new riders through Tournament Mode. Some surfers have different trick styles, but nobody seems that much different on the board. In fact, moving a rider through the water is way too sluggish, even if it's realistic. Control is far from tight, and switching surfers just doesn't make enough of a difference. There's a power meter to show your speed in the water and when you're ready to make a jump. Squatting on the board, getting too far from the wave and dropping the tail can affect speed. Speed affects balance, too.