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Splashdown Review
game: Splashdown
four star
posted by: Shawn Rider
publisher: Infogrames
date posted: 09:10 AM Wed Sep 4th, 2002
last revision: 06:42 AM Fri Sep 23rd, 2005

This has been the summer of the \"new hotness.\" And I\'m 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\").

Splashdown has you racing Sea Doo jet skis on 20 different courses, varying from Lake Powell in Utah to indoor tracks in exotic locales. You\'ll 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.

Controls are 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. There\'s 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 falling.

There is a total of nine characters available in the game, although you\'ll 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 there\'s 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 doesn\'t 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 you\'ve burned through the stock soundtrack.

In all, 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 winter.