TransWorld Surf Review
It's unfortunate that PlayStation 2 owners have been shortchanged on this port of TransWorld Surf.
A developer best known for unique racing games like Midnight Club, Smuggler's Run, and Midtown Madness, Angel Studios proved that its skills extend past racing games with its Xbox launch title TransWorld Surf, a surfing game that played great and looked even better. Angel Studios has ported TransWorld Surf to the PlayStation 2, though the PS2 version is not as uniformly successful as the Xbox version.
Though it uses several conventions laid down by both Tony Hawk and SSX, TransWorld Surf offers a unique gameplay experience. Your surfer can perform a variety of wave-face tricks, lip tricks, and aerial tricks. Face tricks include cutbacks and bottom turns, which are executed simply by cutting back and forth across the face of the wave, as well as the more advanced snap turns. You can perform three different types of lip tricks, known as floaters, which are the surf equivalent of grinding, and there are also a variety of aerial tricks at your disposal Points can also be scored by riding inside the curl, a relatively simple task, but the claustrophobic feeling you get inside the barrel really makes it one of the most enjoyable portions of the game. Each surfer also has a special trick that can be executed only after you've filled up your trick meter, which is done by pulling off big combos.
Combos in TransWorld Surf are much more forgiving than in other boardsports games. Instead of having to transition directly from one trick to another, a combo can be a set of maneuvers performed in quick succession, with the score being multiplied by mixing up what types of tricks you pull off. The game's physics model generally works well, though you'll occasionally find yourself in a physically impossible position or wiping out for no apparent reason. Considering the complex physics associated with surfing, these problems are almost forgivable, though it doesn't keep them from detracting from the experience. Players who approach TransWorld Surf as if it were a skateboarding or snowboarding game will be brutally rebuffed, as surfing is fundamentally different from those two sports. Thankfully, Angel Studios has made a few tweaks to the gameplay in porting the game from the Xbox to the PlayStation 2, making it easier to catch air and effectively making the game easier to get a hang of.
The different modes of play in TransWorld Surf are the action sports standards: There's a pro tour mode, a single run mode, a free surf mode, and a multiplayer mode. In the pro tour mode, you'll take one of 13 pro surfers through the game's 10 locations. You'll surf each location at two different times of day--with these runs being goal-based--and enter a competition run before moving on to the next location. In the goal-based runs, you're given a set of objectives that must be completed before you can move on to the competition and, ultimately, to the next location. Each level has the standard point objectives, as well as a photo-shoot objective, where you must pull off a trick within sight of a surf photographer hanging out in the water. Other objectives call for you to perform big trick combos or especially long barrel runs. Each level also has an objective specific to the location. As you play through the game, you'll have to free dolphins from tuna nets, scare birds away from the surf, and ollie over boats. These location-specific objectives are usually some of the most difficult to accomplish and don't feel nearly as natural as some of the other skill-based goals. The PlayStation 2 version of TransWorld Surf makes these goals slightly easier to accomplish by placing large, brightly colored icons near the goal. If you have to ride a wave all the way down the line, you'll see a checkered-flag marker at the end of the wave. If you have to scare birds away from the surf, a really big arrow will appear over the appropriate birds. This is definitely a welcome addition, as many of the objectives in the Xbox version were unclear and sometimes confusing. In the competition mode, you'll face three other pro surfers in three three-minute heats. You'll be judged on the quality of your run, with points being docked for wiping out, snaking waves, and running into or spraying another surfer. The variety of play offered by TransWorld Surf keeps things interesting, and while the trick system isn't the deepest ever, it's deep enough and finds an equilibrium between intuitiveness and challenge.