|System: PS3, X360, Wii, PC, PS2, GC, PSP, DS, GBA||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Ubisoft||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Ubisoft||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: June 3, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Cole Smith
June 13, 2007 - This game is like an all-day sucker. It looks great, it's a lot of fun, and it won't leave a bad taste in your mouth - unless you actually paid for the damn thing yourself. At fifty bucks this is a steep price to pay for what I consider limited entertainment. The gameplay is fun and has enough depth to put a smile on your face for a few hours, but at the end of the day when it's all over, you are the sucker.
What's the fascination with Penguins these days? There's Happy Feet, The March of the Penguins, and even some random documentary that I saw on TV about Emperor penguins a few months ago. Did you know that it's the male of the species that gets saddled with the responsibility of looking after the eggs? I hope the females of our species don't get any crazy ideas
Penguins are a hot commodity these days. As the losers in Hollywood would say, "They've got an awesome Q rating." They do have a point. Who doesn't like these loveable, bumbling, chubby rascals? That is, until they tell you about the deadly venom they carry in their beaks. Just one peck will kill an elephant. That's why there are no elephants in the Antarctic.
Surf's Up tells the tale of the little penguin that could. Cody Maverick is a young upstart looking to make a name for himself in the animal kingdom. The only thing that he feels will give him his big break is surfing. So he enters the Big Z Memorial Surf-Off in hopes of attaining some recognition. But this is the tenth annual event and Cody finds himself up against a lot of stiff competition. The movie is able to expand on the characters and situations. The game simply lets you take part in the Surf-Off. It's not unlike skateboarding on water. The good news is that the gameplay has a surprising amount of depth to it despite the simplistic nature of the control system and the shallow treatment of the story and characters.
In the main mode, you will choose a character and a board and go through the predictable premise of besting the competition to rise through the ranks. You'll begin with a series of challenges and unlock more as you go. Like I mentioned, it's a lot more like skateboarding than surfing. Armed with your board and some basic skills, you'll earn points for launching yourself off the large waves to catch some air. While in the air you can pull off a few tricks and string some combos together. Performing tricks and other stunts will help fill up the trick meter which will allow you to do some special tricks that would otherwise be unavailable to you. Another fun move is grinding. Using the waves for momentum, you'll be able to throw yourself up the sides of palm trees and along icebergs, not unlike grinding rails. Collecting objects and steering yourself around various obstacles also make up some of the challenges.
The controls are arcade simple, and they are responsive. There are only a few buttons to press. Your overall direction is controlled by the stick. A lot of the moves are context sensitive, so you don't have to learn a lot of control configurations. For the most part the controls are solid and accurate, but there are times when you will be pulled against your will to a different area of the screen as the CPU erroneously second guesses your intention as is required for the context sensitive format. It can get a little frustrating, but fortunately the competition is weak, and you can make up for lost time quite easily.
You can spend a lot of time just having fun creating various combos, but the basic premise of the game is to beat the competition. The A.I. puts up a convincing performance. They always seem a little better than you at first, but that's what keeps things interesting. This isn't a very difficult game to beat, which makes it perfect for younger kids that are fans of the movie. The bad news is that a good gamer could whip this game's butt in an afternoon. That's one reason to be concerned about the fifty dollar price tag.
Even with the two-player mode, you're unlikely to get your money's worth out of this game. It's not an online mode either. It's a two-player, offline, split screen mode that only allows you to play on two of single-player courses. Another mode, called Leaf Slide, is not unlike Amped. It features your penguin sliding down a dirt track. The object of this game is run the obstacle course by avoiding anything that may potentially put an immediate stop to your downhill momentum. It's definitely fun, but like the rest of the game, the honeymoon is over all too quickly.
Surf's Up is a very good looking game, although it doesn't look as good as the animated movie. It's very cartoonish and colorful, but I did expect better from the mighty PS3. I have seen superior graphics on the PS2. The characters are well rendered but suffer from occasional stiff animation. The voiceacting is supplied by the actual movie actors and there are some popular bands such as Simple Plan that lend their talents to the soundtrack.
Let there be no doubt, Surf's Up is strictly for kids in love with the movie. The redundancy of the gameplay will certainly help to break one's obsession with all things penguin in a weekend. Definitely a rental.
CCC Senior Writer