Splashdown: Rides Gone Wild

Splashdown: Rides Gone Wild

Written by Charlie Sinhaseni on 8/22/2003 for PS2  

In case you haven’t seen the commercial for the game the basic premise poses the question: “What would life be like if I could Jet Ski in all of my favorite theme parks?” Thus each track is essentially a rollercoaster ride of its own, and as we all know, rollercoasters are a hell of a lot of fun. And that’s just it, Rides Gone Wild is amazingly entertaining. It’s the type of game that you expect to play for 15 minutes and end up playing for hours. It’s that game that you play when your buddies come over and when your little sister stops by for a visit. And yes, it’s even that game that your mother and father can get in to. It’s pure, unadulterated fun, and that’s fine by my book.

There are a few modes available from the start; an Arcade mode that lets you hit the virtual sea, a Career Mode where you earn points to unlock new goodies and a Garage Mode where you actually enter to unlock new goodies. Also available is a little tutorial that gets you up to snuff with the world of watercrafts and a trick mode that lets you practice the game’s tricks.

Rides Gone Wild is the ride of your life, it’s one hell of an amazing adrenalin rush that keeps your heart thumping from the opening seconds of the race right to the moment that you cross the finish line. You get into it, you don’t just watch your racer go around turns, you start to get into the action and learn along with it. Sure you’ll look foolish but only to those who are unfortunate enough to not understand what this game is truly about.

What makes Rides Gone Wild so amazing is that each lap on each track is a different adventure. There’s no such thing as monotony here, every single lap brings forth new obstacles and hurdles to overcome. An early stage features a huge sinking battleship; as it sinks it sends huge waves your way, knocking your craft off course. Later stages feature pieces of landscape that fall onto the course and change the entire layout. No two laps on the same course are the same and the variety in this game ensures that you can’t just sit back and relax, especially if you want to be successful. Learning how to think and handle these situations on the fly is the key to success here. Also, because there’s such a huge variation from track to track you can expect every new track to provide a varied and unique experience. In addition to the variety the courses are a blast to play as well.

If racing through flooded suburbs isn’t your thing then you’ll want to check out the game’s numerous stadium courses, each one more outlandish than the next. These things are out of control, featuring multi-tiered jumps, crossover jumps where riders have the potential to collide in mid-air, and some breakneck hairpin turns that require you to stop on a dime. These indoor courses may seem bland in comparison to the ride-inspired courses but they have enough personality and flair to stand on their own merits.
Instead of utilizing a boost function THQ instead opted to go with a similar function that promotes consistent tricking instead of sporadic showboating. On the bottom right of your screen resides a performance meter. Performing various types of tricks will help you fill that meter and as that meter fills your craft will become more powerful. The catch to this is that the meter gradual empties as time goes by. Thus you’re encouraged to perform more and more tricks if you want to have a faster craft.

Tricks are performed similarly to SSX but in a modified fashion. There are three tiers of tricks, all of which branch off from one another. Instead of pushing different combinations of the shoulder buttons to perform different tricks Rides Gone Wild has you holding one of the shoulder buttons while inputting different commands on the d-pad to unleash the better tricks. This system seems a bit overly complex in the beginning but as you become more accustomed with the game the system is second nature. This also ensures that each rider will have more tricks at their disposal, over 300 in all.

This truly is a sight to behold, there’s always so much going on around you that you can’t help but be impressed by what the graphics designers were able to pull off. Some of the texture work isn’t exactly the greatest that the PS2 can push out but under most circumstances you’ll be moving along too quickly to notice. There is a lot of detail in the environments and all of the tracks have their own unique feel that sets them apart from one another. Topping off the visuals is some pretty impressive water that’s some of the best that we’ve seen on the PS2. It’s not quite up to snuff with what the Xbox can provide but it looks and behaves about as realistically as you could expect on this system.

THQ has generally been good when it comes to selecting the audio for its games and it does a good job of keeping up this trend. When racing you have the option of selecting two types of audio tracks; the licensed tunes and a unique cinematic track for each of the courses. Personally I decided to go with the cinematic track as it helped get me pumped up for the races. As expected there is some banter between opponents and while it’s just as bad here as it is in other games, it should be noted that the riders actually have specific comments for each other that are mixed in with their generic comments. It’s the first time that I’ve actually seen racers taunt each other by name, definitely a nice touch.

We commend THQ for coming up with a bonus system that allows you to choose which items you want to unlock but we wish that it were more rewarding. All of the bonus items are here for purely aesthetic reasons. Even the newer watercrafts are here for eye candy and nothing more. To offset this, the game allows you to use the points to unlock the later courses in the game, making them accessible to those who aren’t quite good enough to unlock them through the career mode. It’s a double-edged sword of some sorts but the system is definitely better than the ones that we’re accustomed to.

There are a few stability issues with the game that takes the game down a few notches. For some unknown reason the game has a tendency to crash during gameplay. I was racing along happily when suddenly my Dual Shock 2 was vibrating like crazy and the game froze on me. Perhaps it’s just my copy of the game but it’s happened to me on about four or five separate occasions. I can’t quite pinpoint exactly what is causing the game to crash on my system but it happened sporadically enough to not be too much of a hindrance on my enjoyment.

With the exception of a few minor errors Rides Gone Wild is the finest watercraft game ever made for the PS2. It has the tight controls to accommodate the lighting fast gameplay that the game demands and the trick system is both simple and intuitive. There’s a lot of fun to be had here and if you’re a fan of watercrafts, or just extreme games in general, then you should do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Rides Gone Wild. It’s everything that JetX2O wished it could be, and then some.
When it was first released, many opted to compare Infogrames’ Splashdown to EA Sports BIG’s SSX. In many ways they were right, not only in terms of gameplay comparison but also in terms of market dominance. Nintendo’s Wave Race had a nice little niche market but those who were looking for something more knew that Splashdown was the only game that would quench their appetite. Now the game is in its third iteration and THQ has proven that this franchise is no one trick pony.

Rating: 8.4 Good

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.


About Author

Gaming has been a part of my life for as long as I could remember. I can still recall many a lost nights spent playing Gyromite with that stupid robot contraption for the old NES. While I'm not as old as the rest of the crew around these parts, I still have a solid understanding of the heritage and the history of the video gaming industry.

It's funny, when I see other people reference games like Doom as "old-school" I almost begin to cringe. I bet that half of these supposed "old-school" gamers don't even remember classic games like Rise of the Triad and Commander Keen. How about Halloween Harry? Does anyone even remember the term "shareware" anymore? If you want to know "old-school" just talk to John. He'll tell you all about his favorite Atari game, Custer's Revenge.

It's okay though, ignorance is bliss and what the kids don't know won't hurt them. I'll just simply smile and nod the next time someone tells me that the best entry in the Final Fantasy franchise was Final Fantasy VII.

When I'm not playing games I'm usually busy sleeping through classes at a boring college in Southern Oregon. My current hobbies are: writing songs for punk rock bands that never quite make it, and teasing Bart about... well just teasing Bart in general. I swear the material writes itself when you're around this guy. He gives new meaning to the term "moving punching bag."

As for games, I enjoy all types except those long-winded turn-based strategy games. I send those games to my good pal Tyler, I hear he has a thing for those games that none of us actually have the time to play.

When I'm not busy plowing through a massive pile of video games I spend all of my time trying to keep my cute little girl fed. She eats a ton but damn she's so hot. Does anyone understand the Asian girl weight principal? Like they'll clean out your fridge yet still weigh less than 110 pounds.

Currently I'm playing: THUG, True Crime, Prince of Persia, Project Gotham 2 and Beyond Good & Evil. View Profile

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