The original Splashdown had great gameplay mechanics, but it failed to truly re-create the experience of riding a Sea-Doo. Its sequel, Splashdown: Rides Gone Wild, not only improves on the original in that respect, but it also improves on just about every other aspect of the game you could imagine. The tracks in the world career mode are much more creative and thoroughly more enjoyable than those in the original. While there are only eight themed courses, the development team at Rainbow Studios has expanded the number of stadium courses and added a few basic courses that test your beginning riding skills. The trick system has been expanded and now offers a greater reward for performing complicated maneuvers. Ultimately, if you're a fan of the original, you'll undoubtedly want to pick up Splashdown: Rides Gone Wild.
The game features four different gameplay modes: training, career, arcade, and versus. There's also a warehouse mode where you can purchase additional riders, clothing, and Sea-Doos. The training mode teaches you the basics of performing tricks and how to use various riding techniques to improve your performance during a race. Once you're done with the basics, you can move on to learn about more-complicated tricks and maneuvers. Generally speaking, you don't really need to go through the training, since the controls are fairly intuitive, but it will teach you techniques that are useful for placing well in some of the later races.
It's worth pointing out that trick system is a little more dynamic in Rides Gone Wild. Tricks have been divided into three different tiers, and in order to go past the first tier, you have to press a certain direction on the analog stick, which will cause the rider to transition into a second-tier trick. If you want to reach the third tier, you have to press yet another direction to execute an even more spectacular third-tier trick that will automatically fill your performance meter. When this happens, your rider will start to glow, and he or she will be able to reach top speed on the Sea-Doo much faster. It can take a little time to get used to executing complicated tricks and timing them, but you'll eventually become familiar with how much time it takes and how much air you need to execute them successfully. Having your performance meter full is also useful in case you happen to miss a buoy or pass one on the wrong side--whenever you do so, you'll lose some energy from your performance meter, and if the meter happens to be already empty, your Sea-Doo will stall.
That's something you don't want to have happen in the career mode, which is essentially the main focus in Splashdown: Rides Gone Wild. In this mode, you can select from several different riders, each of whom has different ratings in acceleration, speed, handling, and stability. There are also two different types of careers--world and stadium. The world career offers arcade-style tracks set in a variety of environments. You'll ride through the canals of Venice, rapids flowing through a gold mine, a pirate battle, a flooded city, and a haunted castle, and so on. There's a lot of action on these tracks, but that's part of what makes them so fun to ride through. Conversely, the tracks in the stadium career option are far more subdued, but they place a stronger emphasis on technique. In any case, in order to progress through either career option, you have to place above a certain position in each race. You'll also earn points based on your race performance in these modes, and the more points you receive, the more items you can unlock in the warehouse.
The arcade mode allows for a little bit more freedom by letting you select any event type. The circuit and time trial (which also includes technical time trials) options are pretty self-explanatory, but there's also a freestyle race type in which you are basically free to roam around a course while executing crazy tricks. Each event type has its own set of tracks, some of which are from the world and stadium career modes, and some of which are simply open-water tracks with buoys indicating where the boundaries are. You can also determine the difficulty and whether or not there will be any opponents (AI and ghost options are available). Interestingly, you can also select the types of waves that appear on the technical time trial courses, so you can race along small choppy waves or big rollers that will let you catch some air. The arcade mode works well as a training area for learning the courses, but it will also keep you busy after you've finished the career mode. The final mode, versus, simply allows you to go head-to-head with a human opponent on the stadium and open-water courses. It doesn't let you compete on the world courses, but that makes a certain amount of sense, considering the insane amount of action in those environments.
But regardless of the course, you'll be impressed by the show that Splashdown: Rides Gone Wild puts on. The world courses are absolutely packed with detail, and they feature some really spectacular special effects. For example, in the Bermuda course, you'll start off riding against the backdrop of a serene tropical beach. All of a sudden, the backdrop transforms into a ship graveyard located in the Bermuda triangle--complete with massive destroyers falling from the skies, WWII fighter planes dogfighting above you, and UFOs roaming the sides of the course. In the Venetian course, you'll see members of the Mafia shooting at each other, as well as high-speed boat chase. In the haunted castle course, ghosts fly through the air, books move from shelves by themselves, and you'll even get to see a mob heading to the castle gates to set them on fire--the development team certainly seems to be paying homage to Midway's Hydro Thunder, one of the first games released for the Dreamcast. All this secondary action looks surprisingly good, so it doesn't come as a surprise that the frame rate tends to take a slight hit when the action gets a little too intense.
Sound is probably the only area where Splashdown: Rides Gone Wild isn't an improvement on its predecessor. The annoying chatter from the riders has not only returned, but it also seems to be much more prevalent, so get ready to put up with even more horrible pop-culture references and racial stereotypes. The soundtrack is a slightly different matter. The game features both a cinematic soundtrack that ties in closely with the world courses and a standard licensed rock soundtrack with tracks from a variety of artists, including The Donnas.
Rainbow Studios obviously listened to the criticisms leveled at the original Splashdown and did everything in its power to address them. The new tracks are incredibly fun to race on, and the numerous stadium and open-water courses really take advantage of the game's gameplay mechanics and enhanced trick system. As far as replay value is concerned, it's unfortunate that there are only eight world courses, but there are plenty of courses overall, and the fact that there are new costumes, Sea-Doos, and riders to unlock will keep you playing the game for a while.