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Rainbow Studios





It's time to get wet and wild with Infogrames extreme water racing title, Splashdown. Our full review inside.

The first time I was strapped onto the back of a Jet Ski I was eight years old. My family had rented a few of the machines in honor of our new found family members who were visiting us. At first I was nervous but as soon as the Jet Ski began slamming against the oncoming waves I was suddenly at peace with my surroundings. The joy of the Jet Ski was consuming me. Suddenly a huge wave came up from the ocean and threw me off of the machine. What a hell of a ride. While the excitement of actual Jet Ski riding isn't quite captured fully in Splashdown from Atari, but it does deliver an impressive performance that will definitely please people yearning for a little Jet Ski fun (residents of Oklahoma need apply).

The graphics and water system of Splashdown will have everyone reminiscing about the days of playing Bloodwake on their Xbox. The water is just as good if not better than the Xbox exclusive vehicular combat game. Sadly Splashdown does have a tendency to suffer from something I call "Bloodwake-itis". What this disease entails is basically wussy splashes. No matter what height your Sea Doo plummets from you'll still make virtually the same splash as any other racer falling from a much lower height.

The animations in the game are well done and appear to be smooth and clean even while doing some of the more complex tricks featured in the game. The character details are respectable although they could have used some more polish in some spots such as the details found on faces and clothes.

The physics in the game lean more to the arcade side of things which makes you wonder why the tracks are a bit more robust. It would have been nice had the developers made turning more of a challenge, as it is we're stuck with the sensation of driving a car rather than a Jet Ski.

The gameplay of the game is really where a lot of the fun can be found. The races can be quite heated as the computer AI is fairly lifelike. As you progress through the game with one your chosen racers you'll earn more and more previously locked racers, thus increasing the number of members to your team. Before each race you can choose any of the racers that you've earned to better suit each racing environment (a nice added touch). The controls of your Sea Doo are fairly simplistic which is definitely a good thing because of the different eave systems that the game can throw at you.

One of the more interesting features of the game is the ability to hydroplane by holding down the analog stick or the d-pad. Hydroplaning allows your Sea Doo to increase its speed but decrease its handling. The gamer is therefore forced to find equilibrium between the technique of hydroplaning and turning. The choices that you make while hydroplaning alone could very well decide the outcome of a race.

Performing tricks is done by the combination of either the B, R, and L buttons with any of the directions available on the controller. While the tricks do seem a bit easy to perform the real trick is the timing. Different tricks require different amounts of time to start stop the performance of the trick. Sound weird? It is. Sometimes you'll feel like you stopped performing a trick in plenty of time prior to your Sea Doo crashing into the water below but for some reason your racer is still thrown from the jet ski. While this can get a little frustrating at times, it does provide another level of required skill to the game.

The tricks range from standard grabs to death defying stunts that defy expression. Tricks include: Heart Attack, Superman, Shin Grabs, Ankle Grabs, etc… Needless to say the game is no Tony Hawk but it does hold its own with the rest of the extreme sports games.

The sound of the game is quite possibly the most attractive feature of Splashdown. Bands like Blink 182 grace the game's soundtrack but if none of the songs strike your fancy then the developers have wisely included the ability to load your own soundtracks into the gameplay for your enjoyment. The only thing missing from the game is some smack talk between the competitors. It seems like the devs were going for an over the top jet ski game so why not add in some smack talk to spice things up a bit when you pass, or better yet, get passed by your competition.

The game's environments range from the Amazon Jungle, Bali, Bering Strait, Everglades, Great Barrier Reef, Hawaii, as well as other notable locales that people should recognize on sight thanks to some fancy graphical work. The Xbox has also garnered two exclusive tracks including New England Lighthouse and Thousand Islands. All in all the game tops out at 18 environments featuring over 40 tracks within those environments.

To add some variety to the game Infogrames has included 8 different riders to choose from. The 8 riders include two Xbox exclusive characters, Coral Suarez and Jonah Barrett. Not included in the 8 riders is one, solitary hidden character for our gaming pleasure. Each racer of course has the standard four attributes spread among them, each racer excels at different racing abilities and can thus contour to your racing needs.

The only slight fallback to the game in the development department is the slight lack of death. While there is a multiplayer mode to the game there really isn't much to do besides race. The developers attempted at making a HORSE style game but sadly they forgot to make a limit to the tricks which can be performed. As it stands the game mode just keeps going as you and a friend match each other's tricks. Thankfully the racing action of the single player game is fully intact in the multiplayer portion of Splashdown.

While the game does suffer from some of the classic mistakes it is does deliver on the most important aspect of gaming and that is of course, fun. The graphics don't hurt your eyes and gameplay is fast and furious. Other devs who are wasting their time creating new standard racing games should take note, Jet Skis rule the wide open blue.

Nate "GamerX" Ahearn
Prefers waverunners thank you very much.

Splashdown: The Scores













The Final Word:  With a respectable amount of tracks and a good number of riders to choose from Splashdown delivers in almost every department for an extreme racing title. Sadly the game does have its drawbacks in some of the key departments. If you're a fan of Jet Ski games or Jet Skis in general then you should definitely purchase this game. If you're a simple racing fan then you may want to rent before buying.

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