by Felix Xiao
October 8, 2010
OverviewThere currently aren't many surfing games available in the app store, and Chillingo's Billabong Surf Trip attempts to fill the void by providing a realistic experience that takes place in beaches across the globe. While it is backed by spectacular features with much potential, the game is greatly held back by poor implementation of confusing controls.
FeaturesThe Billabong team takes you through a campaign in 11 real-world beaches from the World Champion Surf Tour. You can choose a male or female character, as well as purchase boards and clothing accessories for them with earned mondos. While riding the waves, you can perform 18 real tricks using tilt and dual stick controls. Both Game Center and Crystal integration are included as well. The game is universal for all iDevice owners.
The GoodThe game includes 11 unique locations for you to compete in that provide different gameplay features. At the beginning of the game, there is only one map available, and the others are unlocked after you finish the previous level. In every campaign level, you task is to perform a number of tricks within a time limit. Free surf mode is really nice and lets you take things at your own pace and perform stunning tricks without pressure from the clock. A guide accessible from the main menu explains the logistics of each trick, as well as detailed instructions on how to perform them. At the start of a level, an empty energy level bar appears at the bottom of your screen that can be filled up by doing tricks. Failing a trick and wiping out will result in the meter to decrease. Some stunts can only be performed after the bar fills up to a certain line. You earn in-game currency, mondos, with each play-through, and can use them to purchase boards with special abilities and gear to make your character look cooler. The detailed surfer customization at the start of a new game allows you to choose from a selection of facial features and hairstyles.
The BadBoth control methods are highly inadequate and don't allow for a fast paced ride on the waves. As in real life, the first thing you need to do is find a wave by swimming towards an objective or simply tapping on an arrow. You will then need to stand on your board, as the game doesn't allow you to perform tricks while paddling. This is perhaps one of the most frustrating moves to execute, as you have to approach an oncoming wave by dragging the left stick and then quickly turning your character around to catch the rushing water. Even if you manage to do this successfully, slow speed recovery often leaves you behind in the water as the wave moves forward without you. In campaign levels, you're told to execute a certain number of different tricks before time is up. While it's good that the clock stops when you're riding a wave, the game doesn't give you nearly enough time to finish a level comfortably. Also, you sometimes have no idea how to perform a required trick, and because the help guide can't be accessed during the game, you can either wait for time to run out or exit to the main menu. The wordy pre-level tutorials are practically useless, and you can expect to enjoy learning how to play on your own. Besides the water effects during tunnels and after completed tricks, the graphics aren't on par with what you would expect from a game of this nature. From the playable characters to the beach backgrounds, the majority of the images are blocky and have little to no polish. Even the boards don't look nearly as sleek as they should and make the game feel like it was made in the 1990s rather than in late 2010.
The VerdictBillabong Surf Trip is not necessarily a bad game, but is definitely one with unappealing controls that rob the game of any potential fun. Even in its current state, it may very well be better than most surfing games in the app store. If you can get past the frustration of falling off your board at random times and the lack of polished graphics, then you have a chance of enjoying the game. Billabong Surf Trip is not worth it for $2.99 and proves to be a disappointing attempt at recreating an exciting water sport.