The typical sequel has never received much respect. From movies to music, sequels have a tendency to underperform especially after successful debuts. That’s why my expectations were somewhat tempered when I heard about Resolution Interactive’s Aqua Moto 2. I can honestly say that the sequel was not only worth the wait, but delivers a nifty yet intense water racer to keep you on the edge of your Bahama shorts.
As in the first installment, Aqua Moto 2 is all about racing through courses laden with buoys and ramps while dodging and swerving around other racers and performing stunts. As you progress, the courses and competing racers become more treacherous. During the race, money is accumulated based on success in completing races, collecting bags of cash laid out along the course, and performing stunts.
Graphically, Aqua Moto 2 is a visual stunner offering different backdrops from clear blue water to the sandy shores along with daylight and dusk lighting based in the Tropics, Greece and Egypt. With 48 courses (keep in mind it’s 24 with a mirror mode), each of the venues offer tracks classified by difficulty level—easy, medium and hard. And in general, the game offers those same levels of difficulty in terms of the degree of aggression of competing racers.
Depending on your tastes, the over caffeinated music will either intensify the racing experience or drive you insane with its thumping rhythms. If you’re the latter like I was after an hour of gameplay, then you can thankfully switch over to your iTunes library.
Aqua Moto 2 provides plenty of content with two core modes of play: Championship and Quick Play. Championship mode offers a progressively difficult career through 14 championships where gold, silver and bronze trophies can be earned. By placing in the top three on a specific track, that track is also unlocked in Quick Play. In Quick Play, a variety of settings are available including the modes of difficulty, number of race opponents up to 5, and race laps up to 7. Customizing your racer is somewhat lacking and limited to the color of your racer and nationality. Aside from that, the game offers 12 jet skis which you purchase from money earned and are stored in the Garage area. A tutorial is also available which many will find useful to get acclimated to the controls and bonus system.
Speaking of controls, racing games often fail because of them. Aqua Moto 2 succeeds because of them with 4 solid control schemes.
Accelerometer steering and manual acceleration, Accelerometer steering and manual brake, Touch steering and manual acceleration, Touch steering and manual brake.
Of the four, accelerometer steering and manual acceleration worked best for me, but touch steering adds a good balance of difficulty and responsiveness by providing a steering wheel. All of them provide responsive handling, and my suggestion is start with accelerometer steering before moving on to touch steering depending on skill level.
Aqua Moto 2 delivers on the achievement system with 25 achievements categorized into 5 areas: Racing, Stunting, Skill, Collecting and Career. Achievements can be earned for knocking other riders off their jet skis, completing a number of stunts and collecting a certain number of money bags among others. OpenFeint online scoreboards add to the gameplay along with challenging friends.
The gameplay in Aqua Moto 2 is smooth delivering the right level of intensity to make it worthwhile. Arrows appear that direct you along the course as well as a mini-map showing the location of all the racers. Trust me, you’ll want to pay attention to those arrows because it’s easy to become disoriented. The driving experience is made even more realistic because of the vividness of the graphics, which ties back to the control mechanics. In each race, you’re given three buoy misses before being disqualified. I did find it strange that you could veer completely off course and still not be penalized. As you pass or miss buoys, words such as “Great” or “Missed” flash up on the screen. Unfortunately, this can be distracting especially if you happen to also earn an achievement at the same time because the screen gets overloaded.
During the race, your racer gradually acquires Turbo speed which is indicated by a round gauge that fills up. Once fully charged, tapping the Turbo button provides a speed boost to your racer. Besides racing to the finish line, you can use Turbo to launch off the many ramps on a course. Performing different stunts are actually quite easy. As you lift off a ramp, a series of tabs appear down the left and right sides of the screen. Tapping one or several executes a stunt. A stunt camera, which can be turned off, pans away to show your racer perform the stunt. Be aware that performing stunts during the race can sometimes be detrimental to success. I often found myself playing catch up and failing especially on the more difficult courses.
One area where the developers excel is making you feel it visually when you’re bumped or bump someone else. Depending on the difficulty level selected and the course, aggressive competitors will aim to knock you off. This is a balanced and well implemented dynamic because I hardly ever felt like I was unfairly knocked out. And, if you’re the vengeful type, you can proactively go after other racers which is rather enjoyable after a long day at the office.
Besides some of the shortcomings I’ve already mentioned such as the music and the flashing words, Aqua Moto 2 is a solid water racer. If you’re one of the many makes purchases based on a game’s lite version, I would strongly suggest you not pass final judgment solely based on Aqua Moto 2 Lite. The lite version, unfortunately, doesn’t do the full version justice due to the low level of difficulty.
Overall, Aqua Moto 2 offers an intense water racing experience with the right level of depth and content. This is a top-notch graphical offering with responsive controls.