Imagine if you took the gameplay from Tony Hawk Pro Skater, mixed in the tiniest dash of Wave Race 64, and finished it all off with a synthwave veneer—that would be Wave Break. This strange hybrid by developer Funktronic Labs has a boatload of style, and a new take on the old skateboarding genre. I can honestly say I never thought I’d be playing a skateboarding game that takes away the skateboards and replaces them with boats driven by anthropomorphic animals with questionable morals.
Wave Break is a skateboarding game where you play as one of four main characters, each with different starting attributes, performing tricks around harbors while also committing felonies. Boats and synthwave on the beach invariably invite comparison to Miami Vice—at least on a surface level–and these trick performing animals are knee-deep in wrongdoing. Underneath the cute, animal exterior is a surprising amount of violence and drugs. But that’s just a vehicle for Wave Break’s skateboating gameplay, which, if you’re familiar with classic Tony Hawk Pro Skater, you’ll find a little bit familiar here.
As a skateboarding game, Wave Break holds its own. It’s certainly better than any modern skateboarding game I’ve played recently, despite the fact that you’re not really skateboarding at all. And while it’s pretty damn close to skateboarding, that doesn’t mean that being in boats and over water doesn’t have an effect on things. Your boat is surprisingly reactive to waves, and it’s possible for you to mess up a trick if you try to do that trick while boating back over your own wake. It’s a small consideration, but one Tony Hawk didn’t have to make.
Each of the maps that come with the game are packed with are plenty of locations for skateboard-style tricks. Each of the five main levels is full of ramps to flip on, rails to grind on, and dozens of other props and structures to use for tricks. In campaign mode, each level also has a set of objectives to complete, which will earn you money which can be spent on increasing stats, or in the shops for new boats and clothing. The campaign mode also has a bit of a story attached, with corresponding missions to complete in-level. Often these objectives require doing skateboard-style tricks, while others actually require you to shoot at foes.
There are a few ways to play Wave Break. The aforementioned campaign mode has you replaying each level in chunks of a few minutes each to complete different objectives. There are also multiplayer modes like Time Attack and Deathmatch, with one having you score the most points by performing tricks, and the other by defeating other players (or bots) in boat-based gunplay. I have to say, it’s pretty fun having a full-blown deathmatch while performing skateboard-like tricks on boats. Also, that’s another sentence I definitely never anticipated typing.
I love the bright graphics and style of Wave Break. It has a suitably synthwave soundtrack, though some songs don’t really fit the overall aesthetic. Interestingly, you have the ability to control which songs can play, so you can knock out those songs that don’t match your style. And while Wave Break only ships with 5 levels (6 if you count the Weezer event level) there is a level editor that lets you build your own skateboating parks. This level editor is pretty beefy—and while I don’t see myself putting in the time it takes to make levels as detailed as the ones that ship with the game, I believe this level creator gives you the tools to do just that, if you’re so inclined. I just wish it was possible to make each of the stages a tad bit larger, but I understand why such limitations might be in place.
Wave Break is a strange take on the classic skateboarding genre that I can appreciate. It’s loaded with attitude and style, and some pretty good skateboard-style gameplay. It’s surprisingly violent for a game with such a cute exterior, but not in a gratuitous way. And I’m always a sucker for synthwave music and aesthetics, so that wasn’t a hard sell for me.
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