In a halfhearted attempt to horn in on Wave Race's Jet Ski monopoly on the console scene, Crave has unleashed Surf Rocket Racers on unsuspecting Dreamcast owners. This is a game that isn't particularly terrible, but the derivative, uninspired gameplay and production certainly don't make this an attractive title.
Surf Rocket Racers is a Jet Ski game, but not an especially good one. You're presented with a handful of riders, which allows for handling and speed variations, but the control in the game is uniformly soft, making any differences between the riders a slight variation on the same lackluster theme. The controls are stripped down to NES-like proportions, allowing for simple directional and acceleration control, as well as a back flip, a barrel roll, a bunny hop, and a submersion move.
The game has a modicum of gameplay modes that, to their credit, offer a modest amount of variety. The most orthodox mode is the championship mode--here, you race against a pack of computer-controlled riders, as well as a clock, at locations across the globe. This mode suffers from absentminded AI, which has problems with simple tasks like avoiding walls--problems to the point that seeing a racer stuck against a corner is commonplace. The two-player mode operates in a similar fashion, sans the lifeless AI. The hazards and obstacles mode puts you through the same motions, with added point balloons scattered throughout the levels. To score points, you have to pop the balloons. The tricks and techniques mode bears a striking resemblance to the crazy box mode in Crazy Taxi, though without as many different gameplay types. Even so, this mode proves to be the most fun, imbuing the lifeless gameplay system with a variety of puzzlelike challenges, like hitting aerial targets with your Jet Ski and pulling off a set amount of back flips or barrel rolls before the clock runs out.
The actual locations at which you're racing have their fair share of problems as well. Some of these locations, such as Niagara Falls and the Amazon River, are good fits, but the inclusion of Rome instead of Venice, as well as a "phantom ship" level, are testaments to the lack of thought that went into Surf Rocket Racers. Aside from bad location choices, most of the levels suffer from generally poor level design, with lots of wide-open straightaways mixed in with narrow gauntlets that are full of obstacles--ones that could snag your Jet Ski.
Surf Rocket Racers' mediocrity is apparent when it comes to the production value. Graphically, the game is riddled with low-resolution textures and cardboard backgrounds. CRI obviously spent some time working on the water effects, as most levels have huge swells and different water flow effects, but the water itself looks bad--the lack of spray, or a wake, or any sort of reaction to the Jet Ski's presence on the water's behalf doesn't help things either. The in-game soundtrack and sound effects are hardly worth mentioning, as they consist of blaring Jet Ski engines, the occasional fanfare, and utterly forgettable music.
Surf Rocket Racers is what happens when a game developer takes a stock game formula and simply goes nowhere with it. Granted, Jet Ski games are few and far between, but the overall bland experience that Surf Rocket Racers offers hardly even warrants a rental.