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Sky Surfer
Platform:  Playstation 2
# of Players:  1
Developer:  Idea Factory
Publisher:  Idea Factory
Features:  Dual Shock 2 Control, Vibration Function
Ratings:  Early Childhood
Memory Req.:  65KB
Info:  http://www.ideaf.co.jp
Usually, when a new system is launched,it takes a while for developers to get a feel for the hardware and a few not so hot games manage to make their way to stores, seemingly untouched by the hands of testers. Sky Surfer happens to be one of these games, and while you're playing it and trying to get some sort of minimal enjoyment from it, the whole experience ends up leaving you feeling as empty as the air your chosen character is zooming through in the game.

Idea Factory came up with what seemed a good idea at the time, a game based on skydiving and surfboarding, but the execution is lacking in so many gameplay basics that you wonder just how much this one was rushed out the door. First of all, there are only three characters to choose from- yes, three. I guess those were the ones who survived the virtual skydiving auditions, but it's still a pretty poor selection. Two generic-looking guys and a girl, complete with the usual fake bios and stats (as usual, only the girl gets bust, waist and hip numbers). The problem is, for videogame characters, there is NO personality in these digital actors at all. In the air they look the same, do the same tricks, and fail to give the game any sort of edge all. For an "extreme" sport, this game is pretty damn dull.

The only good thing is, the game is simple to pick up and play, but that simplicity actually kills any fun there is to be had. You pick a character and a board to ride on, select your difficulty level then the main game, "Dive to Air" begins. After jumping from the plane, you have to stabilize yourself using the left analog stick and also by looking at the gyroscope in the lower left corner of the screen. When you're level enough, you can pull off a number of tricks by punching in button combos. The problem is, there are only 13 moves in the manual, and I was never able to discover any additional ones via experimentation. Also, all the tricks are basically the same thing- either you're spinning like a broken top in one direction or another, and the time you have in the air is limited until you have to pop your chute. Then the second part of the game begins- you have to guide yourself to a drop point while being bounced about by updrafts and crosswinds, and trust me, this isn't as exciting as it sounds.

There's a second game included- something called "Beat Balloon", and it seems more like a poor variation on one of the Pilotwings minigames than an actual fresh idea. As a giant fan keeps you aloft, you have to try and bust a number of balloons at different heights in a set time period. This mode is simply awful, because the controls are tougher than the regular game, you don't get to practice at all, and if you can't get all the balloons in one shot, it's game over. The worst thing is, this should have been a two player game, so at least there'd be some sort of competitive party action. But then again, I can't see a bunch of people sitting around looking at this game for too long - there's really not much to watch.

Graphically, while the game does a good job of presenting freefall, there's simply nothing to see in the first part of the Dive to Air game, except your character, and the clouds you're tricking through. In the parachute stage, you see some nice-looking ground textures, but nothing that will make you hit the pause button to check out. With Sky Surfer, you have a game with no gameplay or camera options, no interesting characters, no gameplay, and absolutely no fun at all. Funny thing is, while playing this game, I had a ton of ideas on how it could have been so much better, but isn't that what game testers are for? As it is, the game feels incredibly rushed to market, as if any good suggestions were left out because the developers ran out of time. Even the music just sits there, J-popping itself away, totally forgettable. As a game, Sky Surfer is a total bust, but anyone looking to know how a game should NOT be made should probably study it very carefully.

Greg Wilcox


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