When I think of wave-surfing my mind goes to the stereotypes, and Hawaii of course. Since I am not a great swimmer, I never had the guts to actually throw myself at the mercy of the ocean. Thank God for the medium of video games where I can test the worldly waters from the comfort and safety of my sofa.
After watching Surf World Series’ live action opening credits, a series of challenges await in Surf School. This tutorial mode teaches the controls and arcade approach to the extreme sport. It is often said that one of the most difficult things for a newbie surfer is “the standing up on the board”. This is not the case in Surf World Series. By simply holding down X, your surfer will start paddling to take the first wave headed your way. Letting go of the button once you’re done is enough stand on your board. Thus far there is no need to read the waves or steer your avatar around. This game definitely takes the arcade approach to the sport.
Surf World Series lets players compete in an event style structure going to different locales. With the exception of two events -where specific tricks need to be executed- there are three different types of events on rotation throughout the total 44 on offer. During each event challenges are available which offer some extra difficulty but which I found to be repetitive and uninspiring.
First there is the Big Battle type; here an average score threshold has to be met in at least two runs: an attempt to ride a wave, and within the given time. This is one of the more forgiving events because a wipeout – basically getting thrown off your board – doesn’t lead to immediately failing the level.
Survival events require the player to ride the wave to its end. No second chances here because wiping out will fail the challenge. This challenge has to be overcome in one fell swoop. An on screen meter allows for tracking your progress
Finally there is the Championship-based contest type, where a score threshold set at the beginning of each round must be met in order to proceed. The amount of rounds this event type has increases as you progress further through the game.
After the opening credits it was already clear that the deep waters, specifically the wave model is the big star of Surf World Series. With different shores around the world to surf waves that curl up and form a tunnel to surf through or oceans where the waves seem to want to lash out and splash down on you. Boards and apparel can be unlocked and customised so you can hit the waters looking just as hip as you want.
There is very little fluff to the events, no cut scenes, or crazy announcers. While I breezed through the opening of the game, I later found myself in the stormy waters, both literally and metaphorically.
I definitely experienced a difficulty spike around the mid game point. Even though in hindsight these events might not be the most difficult, I felt frustrated by having to restart due to making minor mistakes – especially when doing well in one of the multi-round Championship events, only to fail in the final round. At times I even felt heckled by the challenges – clear the event without wiping out. Ultimately failing events over and over made me much more cautious than I would’ve liked. In the end I just started taking less risks out of fear of failure, rather than experimenting and showing off my big tricks.
To be fair the swim or sink approach seems to have worked in my favour. After successfully completing all master events, I was a better surfer. Going back to rookie events made me feel like I was beyond the pleasant waves they provided. I even managed to clear some without the dreaded wipeout. I had learned to change my approaches for more speed so I could have more airtime and learned how to evade collapsing waves. The lightning on the horizon seemed almost like celebratory fireworks.
While the events and challenges could have used some more variation, I enjoyed my time with Surf World Series. The feeling that comes from launching yourself off the waves or landing a difficult trick just between a collapsing torrent of water is really good. Ultimately I hope Climax Studios gets to revisit this IP and creates a sequel to Surf World Series, one that builds on the solid core of its predecessor.
Fabian Rating – 6.5/10
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