When the original SPLASHDOWN was released a while back by Atari, the game sported some of the best jet-ski gameplay mechanics seen, but somehow missed the recreation of the real thing. The "sequel" to SPLASHDOWN, simply titled SPLASHDOWN: RIDES GONE WILD, is once again developed by Rainbow Studios and this time being published by THQ. Does the game improve on its predecessor? You bet.
SPLASHDOWN: RIDES GONE WILD sports four different gameplay modes: training, arcade, career and versus modes. The training mode basically drops you into the game lightly, teaching you the basics at first, giving you more time to grasp the game and advance through it. The other three modes describe themselves. There's also a warehouse mode where you can purchase additional riders, clothing or equipment.
Of course, the whole point of the training mode and the biggest part of the game are the tricks. In the newest incarnation of SPLASHDOWN, the tricks have been divided into three separate tiers. When you begin a trick, you have to press a certain direction to get to the first tier; to get to the second, you have to go into another direction, and so on. When you get to the third and final tier, your rider will begin to glow meaning that your Sea-Doo can now go faster. It sounds complicated, and at some times it is; you will easily miss checkpoints or buoys if you're too busy paying attention to your trick meter.
The main part of SPLASHDOWN: RIDES GONE WILD is the career mode. In this mode, you can select from seven different riders, each with their own personal ratings in speed, acceleration, stability and handling. There are also two types of gameplay modes within this - stadium and world. The world part of the career offers more arcade-type gameplay. On the world tracks, there is a lot more action and you'll even drive through a haunted castle and a pirate ship battle. The stadium mode is a little stricter, basically relying more on technique than anything else.
The actual arcade mode offers a little more freedom than the career mode, offering time trials and even a freestyle race. During freestyle, you basically get to fly around the tracks, performing whatever tricks you feel like doing. This is a good way to practice and get accustomed to the tracks. It's a shame that the game only has eight world courses. Luckily, there are a few more in the training and stadiums courses, but more courses would have been nice.
The game looks pretty good from a technical standpoint, and the courses look downright beautiful and packed with detail. The haunted mansion is probably one of my favorite courses; you'll have ghosts fly at you, books fly from shelves; it's just downright fun. Unfortunately, the sound issues that the first game suffered from have returned for the second installment. While the soundtrack isn't bad, the chatter from riders is downright annoying.
While the game has a few faults, SPLASHDOWN: RIDES GONE WILD is one of the best Sea-Doo racing games released. Fans of the original will likely look into this game, but most racing fans should do themselves a favor and look in the direction of SPLASHDOWN: RIDES GONE WILD.