Penguins that surf - it's the kind of bizarre concept that could only have come from one of those random word association engines on
the internet. That's not to say Surf's Up is entirely lacking in imagination. In fact, it's refreshing to play a licensed kids' game that is neither a cruddy racer nor a sub-standard platformer. THQ must wonder what Ubisoft is doing making a decent extreme sports game instead.
Core stunts are executed using the q and e buttons, making it easy for younger children. These simple tricks are about timing. Thankfully, there are also some advanced techniques to give the gameplay a little more va-va-voom. Freestyling works a bit like 'Nail the Trick' in Tony Hawks Project 8. You have to rotate the Right analogue stick to do custom spins and flips in the air. Get a little too ambitious, and you'll probably end up as shark food.
Unsurprisingly, you can also grind rails and dash through gates for extra points. The rail grinding seems a little inconsistent, often crapping out when you think you've got it lined up dead centre. But most of the time, we weren't interested in rails at all.
What we really want to do is ride the biggest waves and Surf's Up definitely delivers. The waves look bright and alluring, and using the Sixaxis motion control to steer into them is a blast.
And here's where the game falls a little flat. With only five main areas of Pen Gu island to play through, this isn't a game that will go the distance. Each area is divided up into three or four races, but at a couple of minutes each, you'll have at least completed the main score challenges in one afternoon.
Surf's Up does have a little replay value. There's a competitive-feeling split-screen multiplayer. Each race also includes a gate challenge and collection challenge where you must pass through a number of special items. Many of them are quite tricky to reach, requiring several playthroughs if you want all the unlockable characters and movie extras.
Surf's Up is a likeable, fun and fairly imaginative kid's game. Just don't expect to get more than an afternoon out of it if you're over 12.
Younger kids will love it and come back for more. A fun concept, well executed.
- Entertaining trick system
- Strangely compelling gameplay
- Motion control works well
- Too short