Rising Board 3D
3DS Download | odenis studio | 1 Player | Out Now (North America) | $2.99
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24th September 2012; By KnucklesSonic8
Taking care not to mess with a good thing, Rising Board 3D is built upon the same engine that Pop Island, Pop Island: Paperfield, and Glory Days - Tactical Defense conformed to, with a visual palette that also harmonizes with those earlier efforts. Seeing to it that the overall landscape expands to include greater variety, the entire atmosphere is one that regularly sees an increase in flavour, and this is accomplished through the treatment of the aerial space (i.e., backdrops of sunsets, mountains, and overcast skies), and, to a lesser extent, changes in water and atmospheric conditions. With the exception of a couple new tracks that play to similar vibes, the bubbly music has remained unchanged and will be instantly familiar to anyone who has had experience with the former two of the three releases mentioned above. Plus, with the added use of 3D, this familiar set of circumstances still feels fresh and lively. Right from the start, Rising Board 3D has a restfulness to it that works well in its favor, whether you have come to appreciate it from before like I have, or are witnessing these delights for the first time.
Rising Board 3D tapers back on the craziness typical of the Pop Island series and, in a bid for relaxing times, has players drumming up a collection of Sun Points through surfing sessions. Not to be confused with an actual competition, the only one who will be seeking after the title of "Surf King" is you, thus making this an entirely personal endeavour for both you and your surfer buddy (Mika, the penguin). In the way of audience, many of the sea-dwelling inhabitants of Pop Island make an appearance, with the occasional cameo from N'Gai and Kat. However, they're completely unconcerned with where you're headed, so don't expect them to cheer you on -- you'll have to do that for yourself.
Gameplay setup is proportioned to a horizontal plane, with Mika moving towards the right of the screen as the environment scrolls towards the left. Much of this takes place automatically, but you can hold down the A Button to accelerate and build momentum. With the A Button also functioning as your jump ability, that increase in velocity is just what you'll need to pull off aerial moves, either on an unassigned, spur-of-the-moment basis or within marked trick areas.
There are three types that can be performed: spins, rolls, and flips. Spins are done by moving the Circle Pad in either a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction while holding A; rolls involve moving the Circle Pad up or down as you hold down B; and flips also require the B Button to be held down as you move the Circle Pad left or right. Of course, too, you must pay attention to the angle of your board in relation to the water as you make your descent. Should it ever happen that you misjudge timing and find yourself in an upside-down state just before hitting the water, you can press A to cancel and return to normal stance. If, however, it's a matter of a misjudged direction, that would be the time to make use of your flight abilities. Pressing A repeatedly whilst aloft will give you time to get back to a patch of water or help you recover from a nasty fall. This move is a blessing in itself, but on a broader scale, the control execution here is well done and leads to a fairly smooth transition as you go from ground to air.
As you embark on your surfboard, you'll observe that level layouts are of an endless variety, which is in line with the modern, arcade-y style that the developers have laid out. Unsympathetically, touching land or colliding with a rock will instantly mark the end of your run and result in your points being tallied. On every occasion that you wipeout during this introductory phase of your progression, you'll probably feel like you're on training wheels all over again. Worth noting is the fact that the level organization isn't completely linear. You can use the Circle Pad to move vertically to other areas without feeling like you're always on this one narrow path that you have minimal control over. Seeing what feels like three or four steps ahead of you doesn't prove limiting in the purest sense, considering the reasonable viewpoint that the camera is fixed to. But still, when you've tripped over something you didn't anticipate, it's hard not to get worked up over the loss.
Showing for tangible steps in your progression regardless of these perceived losses are the Sun Points I spoke about earlier. These collectibles are to you as seashells or rocks are to a child on a day at the beach, appearing in a similarly randomized arrangement along courses and with the added benefit of adding to a multiplier for greater scoring advantages. You can also make Sun Points appear another way, and that is by completing the objective described to you at the start of each session. These are first indicated by means of a footer on the 3D Screen and range from running into a specified number of aquatic characters, to reaching either a certain distance with a jump or a set quota of points. There's only one objective given per session, but once you accomplish it, the sea will glitter as a wave of Sun Points emerge from underwater. There were times when this did not occur, though, and this happened on more than just one occasion.
Through the collection of Sun Points over time, it is theorized that players will naturally want to continue working at the goal of a high-score worthy of a Surf King, unintimidated by the constant threat of failure and the thought of having to pick themselves up again so often. As a reward, the Shop provides not only new boards to spend your treasures on, but also upgrade points that will allow you to sustain up to three wipeouts before you're forced to call it quits. Hooray for that! Speeding things up even faster is a card shuffle mini-game that will double the amount of Sun Points you've accumulated for that respective run, but I personally felt this wasn't an entertaining way to transmit these bonuses to players. What is entertaining, though, is any instance when the game does something out of the ordinary, and thankfully that happens on a regular basis (albeit, that in itself might make it an ordinary part of the game just because of its frequency).
The most basic example is when you pick up a special kind of item -- one that blends in with the other Sun Points but is slightly different in appearance -- that allows you to temporarily transform into either an aquatic or winged character from the Pop Island populace. Thereafter, you can always count on a few strings of Sun Points to be arranged in an arc format in connection with this brief event. A second example of a time when the game does something different has to do with those crazy firecrackers, seen on an occasional basis on nearly every run. It is unfortunate that instead of these being treated almost like special trick ramps (minus the ramp part, of course), they simply propel you forward, and it is often to a landing point that will leave you on soil unless you interject. Even if you were to try and pull off tricks at this time, the gliding motion and the space of time you have to work with don't allow for greater (if any) score opportunities, and I found that to be an upsetting oversight.
It is through a series of recurring Special Events that the game especially likes to push a sense of agility, variety, and added feelings of accomplishment. These take the form of normal levels where you're strapped to a high-powered jetboard that travels at more than double the normal speed; or that of a dedicated wave pool with actual surfing taking place, which up until this point has been viewed as a technique. Sadly, despite the fun these try to bring to the table, they are either very short-lived, or the level design doesn't allow much room for players to grow or see where these new winds will take them.
This is especially true with the former set of events, and it's so frustrating to feel like the game doesn't want you to make use of the very equipment it has teased to be a source of increased adrenalin. It's like an older sibling who taunts you over not getting to use something that belongs to them, then they agree to let you try it out, but they quickly swipe it away from you before you even get a chance to think. The duration of these events does depend on your skill level to some extent, just by nature of the fact that these start out as one-life-only excursions. It should be acknowledged, too, that you can upgrade the boards exclusive to these events to extend the amount of time you have, but to do so will require heaps of Sun Points. In the end, that's besides the point, because, again, with the level layouts contributing to a more grounded affair, the free-spirited behaviours the game tries to encourage ultimately can't break forth in the most expansive and welcoming sense. And so, players are, in a sense, boxed in by the very design they've come to accept and work around.
Related to this point is the overall dynamic surrounding the game's adopted system. Inherently built for quickplay, the game's tactic for extending gameplay is one that is employed countless times in mobile games: implement an uncomfortable restriction and give just enough for players to get addicted to the pace that they'll want to keep moving forward to see what else is "out there" on an inward level. Only difference is that the developers haven't locked this in as something you can't get out of. As I said earlier, upgrades will allow you to make multiple wipeouts, unlike at the very beginning where you're swimming with the fishes before the game even reaches its peak. Admittedly, though, for some reason, it feels somewhat punitive in this case, and I'm reluctant to say it was completely beneficial (or will be) for all player-to-player cases that they did that. And I do think that the strength of the presentation and all that it stands for, in actuality, works against the game's design. To be sure, there is something pretty addicting about the gameplay, but because of the design decisions, there's a slight barrier that the game is unable to see past. It doesn't mean what you find therein is restrictive or completely stifling, but it means that Rising Board 3D ultimately doesn't have the uplifting and long-lasting effect of earlier efforts that have arisen from this team.
In multiple respects, Rising Board 3D strives to be glorious, not necessarily to overshadow the shining gameplay from their earlier endeavours, but certainly to continue those same traditions. And it pains me to say it, but the design makes it more difficult than it should for players to fall in love with it. In some ways intimidating and in other ways disruptive, Rising Board 3D tries to work up an inner strength in hopes that players young and old will see its personality and everything tied to it as being both warm and relaxing. And while I can definitely see some parading around in celebration of the fact that the gameplay does produce those very effects, I can just as easily see some frowning rightfully over some of its design choices.
22/30 - Good
Gameplay 7/10 - Good controls and a sensible system, special events help add variety but can frustrate because of their setup, a few oversights
Presentation 8/10 - A fresh atmosphere with cameos and other familiar touches, good 3D use, Pop Island's bubbly music returns with a few new tracks
Enjoyment 4/5 - Addicting at times but little things here and there get in the way, fun factor doesn't reach a consistent high due to certain design choices
Extra Content 3/5 - Different surfboards to unlock and experiment with, your mileage may vary on the motivation to improve your best performance
Equivalent to a score of 73% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System