Surf's Up? More Like A Wipeout, Dude
Although Tony Hawk has dominated the gaming landscape with his skateboarding games, surfing has never quite caught on in virtual form. Ubisoft, which tested the surfing waters in 2000 with Surf Riders on PlayStation, hangs 10 with the characters from the recent movie "Surf's Up." Instead of developing a kids' platform game such as Shrek the Third, developers created Surf's Up as an arcade-style surfing game clearly aimed at a young mass-market audience.
It offers a fun diversion that should keep the young ones happy, but it's far too short (easily beatable in three hours) to warrant a purchase. The two-player, split-screen multiplayer mode on PlayStation 2 and Wii and the four-player multiplayer option on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 provide limited replay with only two levels available, and online gameplay is sorely missing from all versions.
Using the game's intuitive controls, players can pull off tricks with ease, and the waves look great on PS3 and Xbox 360. Gameplay is all about racking up points by grinding on rails, passing through gates and performing tricks as surfing penguin Cody Maverick (voiced by Shia LaBeouf from the film). The 10th annual Big Z Memorial Surf-Off features 13 water challenges in the main Championship mode, which can easily be completed in 90 minutes. The Wii game fails to utilize the motion-sensor controllers for anything but speed bursts and omits one of the trick types from gameplay. The PS2 game looks drab and has a slow frame rate that affects the already limited enjoyment of this one-trick pony. Besides LaBeouf, Surf's Up features other voice actors from the film, including Jeff Bridges, Zooey Deschanel, Mario Cantone, Diedrich Bader and Sal Masekela, but the title fails to bring the charm of the movie to the world of gaming. The days of three-hour gameplay should be long gone, especially when it comes with a full price tag.
-- John Gaudiosi
Surf's Up Everyone 10+; Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, ($50); PlayStation 2 ($40) Ubisoft