A wonderful, wet gaming experience from Rainbow Studios.
Developed by Rainbow Studios and published by Infogrames, Splashdown is a racing game that puts the player on board of a Sea-Doo. A Sea-Doo is a versatile watercraft: it exists in different models and shapes. If you want to go for a ride with your whole family, you can also find the model with four seats. Of course, in Splashdown you have the possibility to drive the most powerful (and expensive) models available like the RX, the XP (considered by specialists the "Watercraft of the Century"), and the GTX. It's not easy to recreate on a videogame the emotions that a race on board of one of these beauties can give, but Rainbow Studios proved once again their extraordinary skills developing one of the most amusing racing games of the year.
Amusing. That's the word that best describes the gameplay of Splashdown. Instead of a strict simulation of the real-life races, the game is clearly oriented towards an arcade experience. The pilots in the game are able to perform every sort of maneuvers on their watercraft, in a fashion that resembles the unrealistic - yet exciting - gameplay of ATV Offroad Fury or SSX.
The controls are easy to learn and extremely well balanced and the responsiveness of the watercrafts is a little miracle in the field of game development. At the beginning of the game you can choose just among four different pilots, each with different stats (acceleration, speed, handling, stability). I was surprised to notice how these stats effectively influenced the gaming experience. I started playing the game with Rafael Martin, a character with a very low value in stability. When I decided to use another character with a higher value in stability, I immediately noticed the difference. That's sign of a finely developed control system. Moving the left analog stick Left or Right you can steer. Moving the stick Up or Down you can shift the rider's position on the watercraft: this changes the centre of gravity. In this way, you can balance your position during a jump or a turn and you can perform special manoeuvres. For example, moving the left analog stick Down you will cause the Sea-Doo to raise its nose out of the water thus reducing drag: in this way your Sea-Doo will hydroplane, gaining much more speed.
But this is usually not sufficient to win a race. In Splashdown you can perform more than 30 completely different stunts and each time you perform one of them your watercraft's performance will be improved. If you hold one or more of the Stunts buttons (L1, R1, R2) and then you press the left analog stick in a certain direction you will perform one of these stunts. You can execute a stunt only during a jump and you have to complete it before your watercraft hits the water. Otherwise, you will wreck and lose precious seconds.
Splashdown features all the game modes you could ever need in a racing game: a strong, well designed career mode, a rich arcade mode and a VS. mode to play against a friend. In the career mode you play through all the tracks available in the game. As you reach one of these tracks this will immediately become available in the other game modes. In the same way, during the tournament you can race in several one on one challenges against one of the other characters of your choice. If you win, you can ask him/her to join your party. Considering how different each of the characters behaves on his Sea-Doo, it's important to have the proper character to win with ease certain races. In this way you can also unlock additional characters for all the other game modes.
The Arcade mode is extremely amusing and offers a series of varied events. You can race against the clock in Time Trials, you can race in a Circuit trying to beat your best time or you can just take a free ride to strengthen your skills. The Countdown mode is probably the more exciting in the pack. You have to complete a race within a fixed number of seconds: if the timer reaches zero, it's game over. Anyhow, you can add time to the clock collecting balloons scattered everywhere throughout the track.
As usual for a racing game, the multiplayer mode is extremely addictive. You can choose to play against a friend in one of the events also available in the arcade mode plus a multiplayer-only event called Copycat: in this event, after the first player performs a stunt the opponent has to perform the stunt within a fixed time. It's extremely simple, but enough addictive to keep you glued to the monitor for many hours.
Overall, Splashdown offers a solid, exciting gaming experience. The game modes are varied and the 16 tracks available are designed with skill and offer a wide range of challenges for the player. Adding to that, the control system is one of the best ever to grace a racing game. Excellent.