Short bursts of fun and tight controls
Bland courses and boring stunts
It’s been over ten years since the last Wave Race game came out on a Nintendo platform and yet it’s still the go-to name in the genre when it comes to the king of jet ski racing. This is an impressive testament to the franchise, but it also poses an important question about why there haven’t been any other games since that have managed to pull ahead and create some waves of its own. In a way, Zordix AB’s AquaMoto Racing 3D for the 3DS eShop provides an answer by showing just how difficult it is to create a convincing watercraft racer that lives up to the same surf-filled thrills as its forebears.
You’ll spend most of your time playing through the seven main championship cups, with each one consisting of three races themed around Greece, Egypt and the rather general “Tropics”. It’s a competent racing game with tight, responsive controls, but courses often lack variety and rarely deviate from the standard circle with the odd wiggle thrown in for good measure. You’ll occasionally get a figure of eight, but with only a handful of different coloured buoys you have to ride past, it leaves very little to keep players entertained.
Luckily, each course has a healthy supply of stunt ramps to help spice up the action, but even these are quite disappointing. With no skill involved whatsoever, each of the six available stunts are simply assigned to big tap-able icons on the touchscreen. Simply touch the stunt you want to perform and, hey presto, you’ve earned yourself some extra cash. This rather takes the fun out of performing them, but we also found that the layout of the icons wasn’t particularly conducive to the 3DS’s touchscreen. With our right thumb busy accelerating, we found it quite awkward to reach over to the right hand side of the screen, effectively cutting our available stunts in half and doubling the routine monotony of executing them in the first place.
This wouldn’t have been so bad if landing back in the water required a bit of planning, but you also never have to worry about your centre of gravity in most cases, as you can more or less guarantee you’ll land perfectly if you leave the Circle Pad well alone while you’re in the air no matter what angle you approach the ramp from. This certainly makes performing stunts a lot less frustrating, but it also sucks them dry of any drama or knife-edge tension we’ve come to expect from other jet ski titles.
The water itself also runs into trouble. Waves are so gentle that there’s barely any resistance as you whip round corners, and while we sometimes hit a few waves as we took a turn too sharply or against the tide, we rarely fell off unless we crashed into a rock or one of the other riders landed on top of us after a jump.
Speaking of your opponents, they also seemed to vary quite a lot in their level of prowess. We were either miles in front of everyone or trailing behind them with no way of turning the tide regardless of how well we were playing. You can get the odd boost by scoring a series of “Great” or “Perfect” turns round the buoys, but that’s about it– and even then it never seemed to make that much of a difference if we were lingering in third or fourth place.
Beyond the championship mode, there’s a time trial mode which lets you tackle each championship race individually, but with no online leaderboards to compare times, there’s little incentive to make you come back for more after you’ve earned a gold medal in each one. There’s also lots of different jet skis to buy and unlock as well as a local multiplayer mode for up to six players, but that’s assuming you get hooked enough to keep playing.
AquaMoto Racing 3D certainly fills a hole in the water racing genre, but ultimately it’s a shallow reflection of other jet ski greats and lacks the variety and imagination of its water-borne brethren.
Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.