Computer Games: All wet

It's ironic that a game whose players virtually glide over deep water for hours can be so shallow.

September 25, 2007 10:02
3 minute read.
Computer Games: All wet

wilma surf 88. (photo credit: )


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Surf's Up (Tfos et Hagalim), a DVD-ROM in English by Ubisoft, distributed with a 17-page Hebrew-language user's manual by Hed Artzi Multimedia, requires Windows XP or better and a Pentium 4 PC or higher, for ages three and up, NIS 119. Rating: *** It's ironic that a computer game whose players virtually glide over deep water for hours at a time can be so shallow. This tie-in to the Columbia Pictures children's film of the same name now showing on local cinema screens is a disappointment - like most game adaptations of movies. It takes little more than an afternoon to complete and is nothing more than an arcade game without any appreciable content. This is a shame, as software companies haven't produced many surfing games. The so-called story is set at the annual "Reggie Belafonte Big Z Memorial Surf Off" (I wonder if Reggie is related to Harry B.), pitting penguin (and one chicken) surfers from around the world against each other in competition for medals. Ten feathered characters from the movie have come to a fictional place named Pen Gu Island. At first, you can play only Cody, Lani, Chicken Joe and Rory, but as you go on, you can unlock six more characters. It's a bit difficult telling the birds apart (aside from Chicken Joe), as how different can penguins be? Sometimes they have a different mask or piece of jewelry to distinguish them. At the beginning of the game, you are put through a short training session to learn how to use a variety of keys to keep on top of the wave, maneuver yourself among obstacles and slalom up and down wooden structures. Then you go on to learn a variety of tricks, including the back flip, ballerina spin, airwheel, Superman, glider and flying handstand. The game has been produced not only for PC, which is the cheapest, but for Nintendo's Wii (in which your movements in the air of the remote controller affect the action on the screen), GameCube, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Once you've graduated from the training course, click the championship mode and splash into the game itself, in which a mustachioed seal plays the role of a sportscaster from "SPED TV" and serves as a commentator. Your surfboard may be made of the conventional fiberglass, but you may also use a piece of ice that oddly remains solid without melting in the sea (where is global warming when you need it?). You are given assignments such as "Pass through five gates" or "Earn 10,000 points." Tricks will earn you extra ones, but crashing into something solid like a boulder will bring an image of shattered glass on the screen and force you to resume surfing from the same point. Too many of these spills, and you have to restart the game in glacial silence. The surfing courses, which include waters surrounding a volcano, get more difficult as you go on. Besides earning points, you are supposed to collect penguin icons (by hitting them). The points and icons unlock more rock music, clips from the movie and different surfboard models. The graphics are good but not great, and the musical background is noisy and repetitive generic rock. Your penguins are not modest by nature, so when you succeed in completing a game, your surfer is likely to raise his flippers and comment on his performance: "Awesome!" or something to that effect. When your skin raises goosebumps from all the cold water, you can go to dry land for the optional leaf sliding game. This requires you to "surf" downhill on a big green leaf through a cave that is partially filled with jungle-like flora and waterfalls and poses the danger of colliding into boulders. But it is not very amusing or different from surfing around the island. Once you win the championship in the single-player mode, you can challenge your friends in the multiplayer (but not on-line) mode. But with either, even younger children will quickly tire of the game, which is very repetitive and has low replay value. It's harmless, short-lived entertainment that certainly won't interest older kids or adults. The only reason to buy the game is if you are addicted to the movie or are crazy about surfing but can't go into the water because of a skin rash or a vicious sunburn.

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