Thank god for the occasional bucked trend. Surf's Up could very easily have been yet another lamely produced platformer or action adventure game based on an animated film. Instead, it's an oddly competent surfing game. The game eschews any attempts at retelling the film's story, and is instead content to act purely as a companion piece, letting you play as all the key characters from the film in a game that feels like a combo of Kelly Slater and Wave Race for kids. It's not a remarkable game, but at times it can be a decent bit of fun. It's just a shame that it offers so little in terms of content.
Surf's Up isn't remarkable, but it's a decent little surfing game; and hey, it beats the heck out of T&C Surf Designs any day.
Jumping into a game of Surf's Up is a little off-putting at first. Your chosen surfer essentially travels through the level on rails, and it's up to you to guide him or her past the various obstacles that litter the game's courses. All along the way, a constant wave moves along with you, and you can use this wave to perform tricks. The trick system is rudimentary, only tasking you with moving up the wave until you get to the peak, then jumping off by hitting one of the trick buttons. While you're in the air, you can do one of several different trick types, from grab tricks to special tricks that can only be performed once you've built up a special trick meter. This meter is also tied to speed boosts, which you can use to power past certain obstacles or opponent surfers.
As you go, you'll also be trying to pass through various gates, collect power-ups, grind on various rails, and occasionally go crashing through stuff. All these tricks net you points, and the goal of most levels is to hit a certain point target. There are actually two point targets in each stage, but you only have to hit the first to progress.
The trick system works fairly well, and the controls are solid. The Wii version is the only one that deviates from the standard control scheme, but it doesn't go overboard with motion controls. The only motion you use in the game is to swing the Wii Remote downward to engage a speed boost. However, the one caveat is that the Wii version is also missing a trick type, seemingly because of the controller's lack of buttons compared with all the other console versions. The Wii version doesn't necessarily suffer because of this, as it's pretty easy to hit the score targets without this trick type, but it does come off as lazy that no effort was made to keep the missing trick in the game. Interestingly enough, the GameCube version isn't missing any tricks and is $10 cheaper than the Wii version. So, if you're a Wii owner, happen to have a Cube controller lying around, and don't mind that it doesn't look quite as good as the Wii version, the Cube version is basically an all-around better deal. Though, in truth, the PC version is probably the best deal of all at only $20. The system requirements are modest, and it supports gamepads, so if you're hot to buy any version of Surf's Up, that's probably the best way to go.