Extreme sports games have been steadily gaining popularity over the many years since a little game called “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater” was released. Due to its incredible and extremely quick popularity that game has spawned four more incarnations, and eager video game producers have tried to make an extreme sport video game that matches or surpasses the popularity of “THPS”. Aspyr and Activision O2 have put a title on the Macintosh that is close to mechanics of “THPS”, but with one huge, gigantic difference. It’s on water. I am talking about Wakeboarding Unleashed: Featuring Shaun Murray, a game with similar play mechanics to the Tony Hawk franchise yet with enough differences to let it tread its own water for a long time.
As soon as you start the game a little square providing various options commands your attention in the middle of your screen. You are able to choose from four different resolutions, from 640 x 480 (low), up to 1280 x 1024 (ultra). It also allows you to choose a few tweaks to the graphic system, for those of us that don’t have higher end computers to play this on, yet who want a smooth gameplay experience. I either turned them all on or kept them all off, wanting to see just how smooth I could get the gameplay. Playing the game on a 867 Mhz G4, 512 RAM, and a GeForce 4Ti, I can tell you that those little options, like “Enable Environmental Reflection” make a heckuva difference in Shaun Murray’s world. I found that playing the game on 1024 x 768 resolution, without any of the options turned on, was the best way to go. That way you still have the good-looking textures of the many real life locales in the game, yet you still have a smooth, quick frame rate while playing. Now, this was all in one player mode, two players is a different story.
Along with a graphic options tab, the window has two tabs that let you configure your keyboard or gamepad any way you want, for the first player AND second player. I was happy to see that you can still play two-player mode on the same keyboard, for those that do not have gamepads. I found it disconcerting that you were not able to choose right then and there who was going to be first player and who was going to be second player. You have to wait to get into the game to find that out, because the game doesn’t even tell you or even let you choose while in the game. This little oversight isn’t that big but it detracts from the overall pick-up and play mode of the two-player aspect of the game. Another aspect about controls Aspyr might want to take another look at before finally releasing the game is the combination gamepad-keyboard combination. I am playing the game with a MacAlly iShock 2, and for some reason in two-player co-op mode, one of the game's best features, when I started directing my player around it was moving the other player as well, so there was an overlap of controls. Looking the control configurations over I couldn’t find any reason that was happening. But then again, I was playing a beta and I'm sure it has some bugs.
After starting up the game I was greeted by the familiar Activision O2 intro movie, a cute Aspyr intro, a Shaba games intro, and then the obligatory “here’s-what-wakeboarding-is-in-real-life” movie (all of which hiccupped multiple times never giving me a fully smooth cinematic experience to watch, something Aspyr also might want to look at). Getting to the main menu I wandered through the different options taking in all of the different methods of play. You have your one-player mode, which gives you the career mode, free ride, or free drive. That’s right, you get to drive the boat and have some fun mindlessly crashing it into objects and stalling it up on rocks. Or just drive around and explore the level. Free ride just lets you ride around the level without time constraints, or in this case a depleting groove bar that I will talk about later, and just bust tricks and explore.