Format reviewed: Nintendo 64
Submitted by: Andy Bold
There was a time when water-based racing games bore a startling resemblence to their tarmac-based counterparts. In fact, the vast majority of boat racing games looked as though they'd been put together by taking a generic Outrun clone, replacing the main car sprite with a boat, replacing trees with buoys and changing the colour of the road to blue… job done! This all changed in 1996 with the release of "Wave Race 64" from Nintendo. Now, for the first time, the physics of waves and water was recreated to stunning effect. The racers' jetskis bob and leap over the ever-moving waves and cornering becomes a trade-off between taking a fast-but-wide line or a tight, momentum-sapping corner.
Despite the eye-catching wave physics, Wave Race 64 is by no means a "one trick pony". In fact, tricks play an important part in the game. If you find yourself in an unasailable lead on the final lap, you can indulge in some "show boating" (excuse the pun!) by performing all manner of acrobatics on and around your vehicle. There are also "trick" circuits which give you one lap to cram in as many tricks as possible, interspersed with the occassional hoop to jump through. This offers light relief from the intense racing action.
Wave Race is certainly a technical marvel. It is thought that over 80% of the N64's processing power is employed when the game is running and this becomes evident from time to time when the frame rate suffers a little slow down. It's hard to criticise the game for this one flaw when there is so much else to praise. The circuits, albeit small in number, are varied and packed with detail – the tide rises during a race, opening up alternative lines into corners – and the colourful graphics, up-beat soundtrack and over-enthusiastic race announcer give the game a classic "arcade" feel.
There have been jetski racers released since (Wave Race : Blue Storm on Game Cube and Surf Rocket Racers on Dreamcast spring to mind) but Wave Race 64 is still the mark by which all others are judged. As Alan Partridge once said, "Water-way to have a good time!"