Windows - 2000
Description of Championship Surfer Windows
Hiding in a Cave
Unless you've been hiding in a cave playing Nintendo somewhere, you probably know that most extreme sports games are about as worthless as an Al Gore ballot and almost as much fun to play with as a voting booth punch card. The graphics are usually pitifully bad and the gameplay is even worse. It's as if the developers figure just the idea of riding a bull or jumping out of a plane should be fun enough, so why bother with trivial matters like depth and realism?
Championship Surfer pretty much toes the party line and lives up to the lowly expectations of all the other extreme sports games, with one glaringly obvious exception that will hit you as soon as you ride your first wave. Yes, this is an extreme sports game with so-so graphics and pretty dull gameplay, but it does have a fairly decent physics model that makes it fun to play...at least for a short time.
Most of these extreme games won't keep you interested more than about 14 seconds. Often, the install and configuration screens are more detailed and well conceived than the game itself. Championship Surfer dispenses with the fancy start-up screens and gets you into the action through either Quick Start or Tournament mode, both of which are the exact same except for some pointless tournament screens.
Gameplay is identical no matter which mode you're in. You score points by performing stunts using some rather convoluted key commands. For example, you must press one of four buttons or keys in a certain sequence and combine this with one of the directional arrows to complete a trick. This reminds me of the finishing moves in the Mortal Kombat series, except that you have to use them over and over again to score the most points.
Still, the physics in the game are actually pretty good. There is some challenge in figuring out how to ride a wave without going over the top or falling in the wrong direction. This is like figuring out how to surf, so once you master the waves themselves you can start performing the tricks. Taller waves with greater velocity are harder to surf, and slow waves fizzle out appropriately and make it harder to perform tricks before they vanish. More importantly, the crash detection in the game seems fairly accurate. If you fail to keep your speed up and point the surfboard toward the break in the wave, you will pretty easily plunge into the ocean. However, maintaining your speed and accurately reading the wave will keep you surfing far longer. Maybe it was the fact that I have never played any kind of surfing game before, or actually done any surfing for that matter, but Championship Surfer was actually fun for a short time as I learned how to perform the various tricks.
Surfing in the Shallow End?
The problem, of course, is that the game lacks any real depth. You can surf in a variety of locations (10 in all), but they all look the same. Perhaps I'm just prejudiced or something, but I can't tell one wave from another. All of the various surfers you can select (out of a total of eight) seem to perform with the same skills. And the surfboards themselves all handle the same way. Worse, the camera angles are so similar that you can never even get a different perspective on the action. One exception to the lack of gameplay variety is that the weather conditions you select for your run do seem to effect the gameplay somewhat by causing bigger waves. When I selected the hurricane option, the waves were noticeably higher and faster.
Championship Surfer has pretty good graphics, although they don't measure up with the console games of this kind (see Surfoid for the Sony PlayStation). Waves swell and rise accurately, then break just as they do along any real beach. The main problem is that the surfer looks a bit too small in comparison to the environment. Rendering on the player is also not up to the high-polygon count standards of most PC action games published over the past few years. Music and sound is similarly lackluster. The songs are very repetitive and lack the grungy extreme appeal of well-known bands like Cypress Hill. There are a few sounds that help make the game more realistic, like seagulls in the distance or the splash of the waves, but nothing to write home about.
If you have a hankering for surfing and want to get a quick thrill ride, Championship Surfer does deliver in a limited sense. You may only play the game for a short time, but it will be a unique, generally entertaining experience...at least compared to riding a bull or shooting deer.
Review By GamesDomain
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