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Game Over Online ~ Kayak Extreme

GameOver Game Reviews - Kayak Extreme (c) Global Star Software, Reviewed by - Fwiffo

Game & Publisher Kayak Extreme (c) Global Star Software
System Requirements Windows, Pentium II-233, 64MB RAM, 100MB HDD, 3D Accelerator, 4x CD-ROM
Overall Rating 60%
Date Published Monday, January 7th, 2002 at 12:32 PM

Divider Left By: Fwiffo Divider Right

Long ago, sports games meant a choice between baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer and football. Nowadays, extreme and leisure sports are finding their way into gamers' hands. Kayak Extreme is the latest title from Global Star Software to cash in on the craze for extreme games. Clearly there is an appetite among the audience for such titles. We need only to look at how pervasive the Tony Hawk franchise is for Activision and the multitude of snowboarding or surfing games for both the Gamecube and Xbox launch line-ups.

Developed by Small Rockets, Kayak Extreme casts players in a kayak down white water rapids in South Africa, Alpine and Alaskan settings. You can begin by honing your skills on an easy suburban-urban course, but once you're done, the developers unleash you to the wild, which boast of huge waterfall drops and narrow rocky passages. Much of the game has you guessing and moving your kayak persona in anticipation of the next gate. You must pass all the gates and, as seen on television, there are some gates you have to traverse in reverse. The training course prepares you somewhat for some of the obstacles you'll encounter. You have to use moves like pirouettes through deep eddies and the infamous Eskimo roll to get past logs or obstacles. There are bluffs that impede your progress so not only do you have to take care to predict your kayak will pass through the proper gates, but also get around these water snags either by going around it or using one of your special moves.

Clearly, all this manoeuvring around the course will require some taut physics from the 3D engine. Kayak Extreme delivers a pretty commendable one. You can't expect much from a value title but it looks like Intel Pentium 4 CPUs can lend a hand in rendering some of the graphics. Other than the obvious Intel sponsorships throughout the game, the quality is actually not that bad. There is some texture stitching that does not meld together congruently; most blatantly noticeable in the water texture. Besides the natural environs, the other items beyond the track itself are represented by 2D sprites yet there is still some pop-up phenomenon when viewing the track at a distance. Obviously these are minor technical flaws since you won't be seeing too much in the distance. The nature of the game depends heavily on the behaviour of the water, which is top notch. The water has a leathery texture to it and I'm not sure whether this is realistic or true to the real nature of the sport. It certainly makes for great visual style.

The audio is slightly more disconcerting. There is a great upbeat soundtrack during the menus and at the beginning. However, once in the actual game, everything suddenly becomes quiet. Why the soundtrack could not be expanded into the game itself is beyond me but it would have helped maintain some much needed intensity. The aural effects are decent but not spectacular. I often thought some of the crashes, against the rocks for example, did not have enough bass to it. You can kayak against one AI or one saved ghost. I remember when ghosts were pioneered by Ubisoft's POD to get around the lack of multiplayer. You could send ghosts to other people and basically simulate multiplayer experience. This is not so with Kayak Extreme as there is only provision for one saved ghost.

The developers have implemented some locked features like extra kayak boats and paddles. These change the gameplay ever so slightly and some of the tracks are locked too. Kayak Extreme's pace for beginners is awkward. As a beginner, you won't be dashing down the streams like many of the pros do on television. Instead, it will be painful and often slow going, especially on the long-winded courses. Although the game does not impose game-ending penalties for missed gates or downright horrible performance, for some people the racing mood will falter and a puzzle identity will emerge to replace it.

Sustaining excitement is probably the crux of Kayak Extreme. The audio department fails to carry through for the rest of the product. Otherwise, it has surprisingly decent technical execution, unfortunately, for a game that will turn out more strategic than action like. The Intel sponsorships and Pentium 4 code is a surprise. With a single championship mode and limited ghost capabilities, you are forced to settle for a solo playing experience. The number of locales could stand some improvement too. Ultimately, it is these restrictions that prevent Kayak Extreme from taking off like its brethren skateboarding, snowboarding or surfing titles.


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