I kind of dove into Barton Lynch Pro Surfing without any prior knowledge. Not really sure what to expect, I just figured it would be an arcade game like Tony Hawk, especially with a similar naming convention. I’ve actually found the game to be a lot more like a simulation rather than an over the top score smasher. There’s nothing wrong with that, but unfortunately I have to admit I’m not very good at it.
First off, you’re thrown in the deep end with an optional tutorial that starts off with a lot of reading. While that’s fine, a show and don’t tell video would have been much appreciated. The tutorial explains the basics of scoring and how surfing tournaments generally are held. Cool, no problem there. Then it gets into the game mechanics. Which are all good and fine, but at the same time they have occasional voice over that doesn’t match the tutorial. So I found myself reading what was on the screen, and then stopping when I realized it wasn’t what the narration was telling me. It was easy to just go back one screen and forward to rewind the dialogue, but it also felt unnecessary.
Controls are pretty straight forward. Paddle out to a wave, hop up on your board, and then do a variety of tricks to build up your score. Like I said it’s less Tony Hawk and more trying to get a perfect 10 from the judges. You can pump to gain speed, perform various tricks depending on where you are height wise on the wave, or even do grabs after jumping above the wave.
I was terrible at most of this. Tricks on the waves themselves worked well, but angling seemed to be a bit of a struggle, as did the camera. Which, I’m chocking up to user error, because I feel like I was trying to control the game too much. I was constantly fighting the camera, and it seemed like the camera wanted to do its own thing that I was interrupting. When I’d go into a wave, I just felt like I was doing the opposite of what the game wanted and I’d be heading into the wave instead of along it.
As time went on I did get better, but I can’t say I was actually “good” at the game. Which it’s weird for me to say, but I don’t think there’s anything really wrong with Barton Lynch Pro Surfing. I just think it isn’t for me and my 20+ years of Tony Hawk hard wiring. Even after you fall from a wave, its more of a simulation aesthetic where you swim back out to where the next wave will form. Odds are you won’t be close enough and you’ll need to dip under the first wave to not wipe out again. Nothing wrong with that, and it fits the competition simulation mode well. But in Freestyle I just kind of wanted to keep surfing. Again, more of me wanting an arcade game than something wrong with the game I was playing.
Visually, the game is fun! The characters for the create a character setup felt a little retro gamey, but at the same time you’re never looking AT your character’s face anyway. So I’d just picked a pro surfer to play as instead. The waves are just fine and surfing through a tube in first person is actually a fun activity. The game looks appealing. There’s a fun soundtrack here, lots to play around with and tons of options for your optimal surfing conditions that you want to focus on.
I feel bad for this review because typically I do lot of safer random requests. I feel this one is on me because I should have researched a bit more. There’s some great sim stuff here. Like keeping tabs on your stamina, watching the condition of your board and even tether, and actual competition that has thought out rules. Meanwhile I was just expecting “surfboarder go jump, score go up!” and instead I got a game that was far more technical for me.
I’m not saying it’s a bad game. I’m saying do your research, and maybe this is your cup of tea! Others are really enjoying it! Unfortunately for me I should have stayed on the shore and cheered on the professionals.