Remember Wave Race 64? wish you could play it again? Then Aqua Moto Racing Utopia will be sure to whet your appetite. Slaloming through bouys as you race through a variety of different water based location, from calm Meditterainian coasts, to stormy swells of the Atlantic. The game features Race and Freestyle events, in the former you aim to cross the finish line first as you race around the circuit, with the added stipulation of passing Bouys either on the left (yellow) or right (red) side as you go, getting as close to the bouys as possible builds up your turbo meter faster, miss passing a bouy on the correct side will drain your turbo, and ultimately missing three in total during a race will disqualify you.
As for Freestyle, these events focus soley on stunts, stunts are performed mainly using the right analogue stick, but can also be performed by pressing the B button, which will only payout half the points for the random trick it performs. using LT and the left analogue stick performs spins and flips while in the air, enabling you to combine them with stunts to earn more score. Stunts can also be performed during race events to help build the turbo meter.
Single player consists of a main championship mode, which contains three divisions, the first two are race divisions that are specific to runabout and ski watercraft, with the third being a freestyle division focusing on stunts. The events are split into engine capacity with the ability to purchase different watercraft as you progress through the game. Money is earned from completing championships and also picking up coins you’ll see as you race, the higher value coins are usually in tricky to reach places or on a part of the circuit where there’s multiple routes through a corner and usually placed on the longest route. I didn’t find that it was a necessity to pick these coins up, as after a few races I’d usually have enough to get myself another vehicle.
One thing I do like about the circuit layout of Aqua Moto Racing is that it’s not always about having the fastest craft. Each circuit will have a brief overview of its complexity before starting, and will include things like wave size, tight corners, stunt opportunities, etc. So a circuit with a high level of tight corners and large waves may benefit a slightly slower but more manouverable craft. It’s making that decision that adds just a little bit more to making the right choice of craft.
On to the locations and circuits. There’s a massive forty-five tracks spread out over ten locations in Aqua Moto Racing, as previously stated they vary massively with their layouts and can also have different weather should you give them a blast in single race mode. They can also be tackled in Time Trial, and Leisure, which is essentially a free mode that lets you fully explore a location, finding the access routes to short-cuts and the odd secret or two too. The game also features player customisation, with a small variety of options to create a rider that you like, nothing overly complicated, but at least players can select their character sex, body type, clothing colours etc. Watercraft can also be slightly customised with an option to change the primary colour of your craft before each race. Again, nothing special, but the option is there.
I found the biggest downside to Aqua Moto Racing was in-fact the AI. Rediculous to keep up with on harder difficulties, and when you do manage to get alongside one, or find a difficulty in which you are competitive enough, they’re quite bullish and seem to almost deliberately try to swipe you the wrong way round a bouy or into the nearest obstacle, it can be frustrating and did result in a few restarts during my playthrough. On the other hand though they aren’t immune to the three strike and out rule in the race events, and often come a cropper themselves due to crashing and missing bouys. Aside the afore mentioned single player modes, there’s also local and online multiplayer for up to four and eight players respectively.
The controls in the game are spot on, very responsive and take little to no time to get to grips with, the option to change between first and third person perspectives is also a nice touch. The physics are hit and miss, with the water/waves behaving as you would expect, with the stunt side of things feeling a little wooden, especially if hitting a ramp slightly off dead center, you’ll morE than likely find yourself in the air at an awkward angle that cannot be corrected with rotation or flipping, ultimately ending in a crash landing. there’s a couple of issues regarding the game’s visuals too, while overall they look spot on, going for that classic 90’s visual style, the game does suffer from some screen tearing and on the very odd occasion some framerate loss (playing on an Xbox One S). The audio is OK too, nothing spectacular but nothing you wouldn’t expect from a game trying to be as nostalgic as possible.