It's good to finally start seeing sports that are overlooked by the mainstream media wind up as video games. Bodyboarding has been practically ignored by everyone, even surfing media. That is why I was so surprised when I heard Mike Stewart was coming out with a bodyboarding game, but hey its Mike Stewart so you can expect anything. For those of you who don't know who Mike Stewart is, he is possibly the world's greatest bodyboarder (unfortunately, he's getting old). This guy has bodyboarded Mavericks and Shark Island among other locations, so I have the utmost respect for him. For those of you who still don't know what I'm talking about, this game simply isn't for you.
Mike Stewart's Pro Bodyboarding features six modes of play: Contest, Arcade, Slalom, 2p Vs, Practice, and Training. Contest is exactly what it sounds, you compete against a few other borders in a heat for the most amount of points, the winner advances to the next location. Arcade is a timed game with obstacles in the water and Slalom consists of riding across the face of a wave going through various checkpoints. Practice is an everlasting wave and training is exactly what it sounds like. There are also quite a few locations around the world to board at: G-land, Kira, Pipeline, Sunset, Shark Island, and Puerto Escondido. In addition to a multitude of surfing locations there are about eight bodyboarders to choose from including Mike Stewart himself.
The games premise is very basic and the graphics engine reflects that. 3D Acceleration is supported, however, it's not very pretty. The wave graphics aren't anything to marvel over and the water doesn't appear very realistic or inviting. Unfortunately, the white water isn't realistic either, it is just a bunch of pre-rendered pixels. Despite the lack of depth within the graphics engine, I still got the feeling as though I was surfing a massive wave in an exotic location. Unfortunately, there is very little difference between locations in terms of graphics and wave form. Kira looks just like G-Land except the water color has changed and there is a new hideous bitmap background. The characters aren't very inspiring either, hell Mike Stewart in the game doesn't even look a damn thing like him in real life. One thing I did appreciate was the sponsors shown in the game, such as viper fins, bodyboarding magazine, and No Friends video production. It shows that the bodyboarding community is behind this game and it will receive the attention the sport deserves. One thing I did appreciate about the graphics engine is the camera work, you can view from different angles including inside the barrel, creating some really cool moments. If you absolutely must have superb graphics to enjoy a game, look else where Mike Stewart will disappoint you, but to those who prefer gameplay keep reading.
If this game excels in one thing, it's fun. I literally spent hours a day playing on practice mode cruising along the wave busting out all kinds of airs. There is a decent list of tricks to perform on the waves including: cutback, el rollo, barrel rolls, ARS, reverse air, forward air, back flip, front flip, and a few other variants. The tricks are very simplistic and anyone can learn how to pull them off after a few tries. Unfortunately, the main modes of play really aren't that fun at all. Competition is horrible, you sit around until a swell comes up and paddle into the wave and then do tricks for points (trust me, its much more worse than it sounds). Arcade isn't interesting either if you're a real bodyboarder because it focuses more on point accumulation and avoiding obstacles.
Adding to the overall ambience of the game are a few really good sound effects. I really felt as though I was at the ocean with all the wave crashing effects included in the game. One thing they really could have done to create a better ambiance for this game would have been to include various wave shapes and sizes as well as different weather conditions. Every wave you ride is way to predictable, none close out or have boils or any other perils found in big wave boarding.
Bottom line, this game was made by a bodyboarder for a bodyboarder. If you haven't gone to the ocean or really know what the sport is all about you wont find yourself enjoying this game whatsoever. If you do surf or bodyboard, I definitely would suggest picking this game up because it's a great way to enjoy the sport when you can't make it out to the beach.
[ 10/20 ] Graphics
[ 14/15 ] Sound
[ 25/30 ] Gameplay
[ 18/20 ] Fun Factor
[ 01/05 ] Multiplayer
[ 08/10 ] Overall Impression