So I thought, because sadly Surf’s Up still shows signs of the typical slapdash mentality to children’s games. I suppose I should have taken a hint from the graphics. There’s nothing particularly wrong with them. They’re nice. They’re cartoony. On the 360, PC and PS3 you get some nice lighting effects and the characters are well modelled, well animated and bursting with personality. All the same, you can’t help but think that this is a PS2 game given the traditional high-def boost.
If you get a chance, take a look at adverts for the movie and check out the stunning, translucent, super-realistic waves. Now look at their equivalents in the game. Maybe we can’t expect that sort of ray-traced, refractive, fresnel-frosted goodness in real-time on current console hardware, but we’ve certainly seen better water effects than this. You can’t help but feel that whoever put the Unreal engine to work on this was either limited in terms of time and money, or maybe just a little bit lazy.
Secondly, I have to wonder why it’s still generally felt that kids don’t deserve online play. It’s understandable for a PS2 version, but why on the 360, the PS3 and Wii? We get split-screen, 4 player action, but no online multiplayer, and not even an online scoreboard where we can check our efforts against the competition. We take this sort of thing for granted in grown-up games. Why shouldn’t kids get the same treatment?
My most serious complaint, however, is that Surf’s Up is a game with a horribly limited lifespan. It’s great that the game starts easy, but it never really develops. Get the basic principles right, upgrade your surfboard and character as more options become unlocked, and you can swan through the entire game in three or four hours.
You may be left with a few extras to unlock and the final hidden challenge to complete, but even these won’t take you that long. I know, it’s a kids’ game, but have you seen any kids playing lately? My wife’s nephew polishes off boss battles that take me an hour on his third or fourth go! Trust me: they don’t need that much help.
This is a real shame, because Surf’s Up is an awful lot of fun while it lasts. If it went on for twice the distance, had online play and – like Disney’s Extreme Skate Adventure – an advanced play mode, I’d be pushing it as the perfect game to play with children, or as a guilty pleasure you might like to sample for yourself. As it is, however, it doesn’t deliver fun for long enough for you or any offspring to get your money’s worth.
An entertaining ride that’s over far too soon. The lack of ‘wow’ factor and online features is also disappointing on the 360, PC and PS3. Enjoy the ‘chowder’, penguin dudes.