in The Vault

Wakeboarding Unleashed Featuring Shaun Murray (2003)

Welcome to another edition of the vault, a segment devoted to nostalgia. This week I’ll be reviewing a PS2 game that I’d pined to play for years until I finally buckled down and bought it on Amazon. The game is Wakeboarding Unleashed Featuring Shaun Murray by Activision, the same studio that brought us the beloved Tony Hawk Pro Skater franchise. I’ve always been a big fan of the THPS series and just earlier this year became a fan of another past Activision title Mat Hoffman’s Pro BMX for the PS1. It all goes back years ago when I played a demo of this on a copy of THPS 4. In the demo you could only play one level accompanied by a loop of Molly Hatchet’s “Flirtin’ with Disaster” but man was it fun. Though time went by and somehow I just forgot about it. So now that I’ve finally played through the game does it live it up to my expectations? Totally.

What’s a wakeboarding game even like? I think it’s closest relative would probably be snowboarding games, yet there’s something about crashing against waves that I find so much more satisfying than snow. So you follow behind a boat, go off ramps, do tricks, but all with that delightful Activision touch. The controls are incredibly fluid and you can fall into it immediately. One of my favorite features is the ability to let go of the rope, giving you the opportunity to explore other parts of the levels momentarily or elaborate on tricks, but it all has be timed just right. The level design is another feature to Wakeboarding Unleashed that really keeps it interesting. You have the more standard levels like wide canyons and Venice then you get some crazier stuff like a flooded city or the jungles of Belize. The graphics hold up really well and the level design is intricately complex with plenty of secrets.

Putting all of what’s been said aside, there’s still some features here that bring my piss to a boil. Some of the challenges get pretty repetitive and there’s a great deal of difficulty to go along with that. One challenge I always hate is boat racing. Where the wakeboarding controls are smooth the boat challenges are incredibly clunky and unbelievably boring. Other difficult aspects stem from the level designs getting more and more complicated. Where collecting numbers in one combo may be easy in the first level it’s pretty tricky later on. I find myself replaying missions over and over again and for what? To get another level that can only offer me the same challenges but slightly harder.

This is a game that’s fun to free-play for a couple of hours but can be frustrating if you care to unlock everything. Though I suppose if I had slightly better reflexes I’d probably enjoy this more. But why was this game so quickly forgotten? Because it’s about wakeboarding. Who really cares or knows anything about it? Is Shaun Murray a household name? The answer to these questions is; no one, nothing, and nope. It’s a bit of shame because this game is unique and worth a play. I’d recommend you check out this game if it was still 2003.