Up until 2003, publisher Aspyr was purely in the business of porting popular PC titles to the Macintosh platform. These days, it's gotten into the business of porting successful console games over to both of these platforms, and Kelly Slater's Pro Surfer is the third game thus far to receive such a treatment. Kelly Slater already had its moment in the sun a little over a year ago on the GameCube, PlayStation 2, and Xbox, but Aspyr's solid PC port of the game, which features some cleaned up visuals, keeps things fresh.
Kelly Slater's Pro Surfer is arguably the best surfing game on any platform.
Treyarch, the team behind Kelly Slater's Pro Surfer, as well as an assortment of Tony Hawk ports, has essentially taken the Tony Hawk style of gameplay and adapted it to the sport of surfing, thus making the game a breeze to pick up for any experienced "pro skater." This practically goes without saying, but you will absolutely need a gamepad to play Kelly Slater's Pro Surfer on the PC--preferably something with at least eight buttons. And, though the game does base its trick system on the one found in the Tony Hawk games, there are some nuances specific to surfing that make the game's tutorial a necessary step.
Once you're up to speed, the surfers in Kelly Slater can be pretty versatile. When you're on the face of a wave, you can perform snaps, stalls, and slides. If you want to go vertical, simply carve up and down the wave to gain momentum, and then launch by using the jump button. When you're in the air, you can perform a variety of grab and flip tricks by using the grab or flip buttons in concert with a direction on the D pad. Some of the tensest action to be had in Kelly Slater is in the tube. By holding down on the D pad, you can slide right into the barrel, at which point a vertical balance meter will appear. You'll gain points just by staying on your board while you're in the tube, but you can also perform an assortment of tricks while you're in there, such as dragging your hand against the roof of the tube or lying down on your board.
Linking together a series of consecutive tricks has been one of the core mechanics of extreme sports games since the beginning, and Kelly Slater facilitates this on the water with clever use of its special trick meter. When the meter is empty, you can only link together tricks that are on the same section of the wave--face tricks can be linked with other face tricks, tube tricks with other tube tricks, and so on. But when your special meter is full, you'll not only be able to perform special tricks, but you'll also be able to link tricks performed on different parts of the wave together for outrageously high scores. While the mechanics in Kelly Slater's Pro Surfer aren't incredibly original, they're smooth and responsive, and the game makes good use of them, creating what is easily the deepest surfing experience to be had on a PC.
Fans of Activision's other action sports titles should have little trouble picking up Kelly Slater.
All this action comes into play in the career mode, which represents the core of the game. Though Tony Hawk's Underground features a more fully developed story mode, Kelly Slater's Pro Surfer invests in a little backstory to help get the ball rolling, and it gives you pretty good context for your globe-trotting antics. As one of the 10 playable professional surfers in the game, you embark on an epic boat trip that has you searching the globe for the perfect wave, thus giving the game a sort of Endless Summer feel. The pretense of the boat trip is really a minor touch, but it's handled so consistently that it helps give the game a distinct personality.
As you travel from beach to beach, you'll be charged with a half-dozen or so challenges at each stop. These include standard score challenges and location-specific challenges, like spraying windsurfers, jumping over a pier, or breaking up pieces of an ice floe. There are also photo challenges, where you'll have to pull off high-scoring tricks at the exact moment that the surf photographer takes his shot. The icon challenges, which first appeared in Kelly Slater's original incarnation but have since shown up in other Activision action sports titles, present you with the task of performing a certain number of specific tricks in a single two-minute run. The icon challenges can be good fun, and, since you'll be presented with virtually every type of trick, they're helpful in honing and expanding your skills. Successfully completing these different challenges unlocks new beaches, equipment, special moves, and challenges at existing locations. You'll also participate in competition levels, where the goal is to simply have a better run on the water than your opponents. The career mode is generally good fun and offers enough variety to keep you engaged. Additionally, the constant lure of unlocking new tricks and boards keeps you coming back.