With the current trend of making video games based on "extreme sports" such as skateboarding, BMX, and in-line skating, it was only a matter of time before surf games started popping up. Surf Riders has the advantage of being the first surf game out of the box for the current generation of hardware.
Surf Riders has both a simple premise and simple execution - you surf. There are two modes of play: world challenge cup mode, which is a competition mode where you tour around the globe to different locations, and a free play mode, where you can hone your skills at any of the given locations. In both modes you're given a group of surfers and a group of surfboards to choose from. The different surfboards affect your acceleration, turning, and jumping abilities, while the impact the surfers have is limited to the voice samples that play when you wipe out or pull off a trick.
Unlike in T&C Surf Design for the NES or California Games for the Lynx (which, let's face it, were the last good surfing games), you don't start off standing on your board, ready to tear up some waves - and that's where Surf Riders gets into some trouble. You start off on your belly, paddling like a madman to gain enough speed to stand up, all the while trying to keep yourself positioned in such a manner that you don't wipe out the second you stand up. R1 controls paddling, triangle lets you stand up, and the D-pad controls direction. While it may seem like a simple task, simply getting to the point where you can actually surf is one of the most difficult portions of the game, as it is unintuitive and excessively difficult. Once you get on your feet, Surf Riders manages to deliver the goods. You can slip inside the curl, do aerial jumps, and execute various tricks on the lip of the wave. After a certain amount of time, the waves will just... run out. Your run is judged by the length of time you spend inside the curl, the amount of spray you kick up making turns, and the quality and quantity of your aerial and lip tricks. While the gameplay can prove to be fairly engaging, the lack of variety shortens the replay value of Surf Riders greatly.
Graphically, Surf Riders is no show pony, but it manages to get by. To the game's credit, the iffy water textures, blocky character models, and sometimes-unnatural wave shapes all clip along at a consistent frame rate. The sound effects in the game are also nothing to write home about, though the solid surf guitar soundtrack provided by The Aquamen, Los Straightjackets, and Pollo del Mar help you ignore the grating sound samples.
In the end, Surf Riders is a fun game with decent gameplay, but the shortage of modes, run-of-the-mill graphics, and lack of variety prevent Surf Riders from being to surf games what Tony Hawk's Pro Skater is to skateboarding games. Hopefully for the surf game genre, Surf Riders is just a taste of things to come.