The first games console I ever owned was the Nintendo 64. One of my favourite games on the system was Wave Race 64. It was so refreshing to play a racing game where the track wasn’t static and undulated differently each lap. I was sure that, moving forward, there would be more and more racing games set on water. It never really happened though, there have been a few water-based racers, but they are very much in the minority. We have had a couple this generation thanks to the Riptide GP games, though the wave effects are fairly limited due to them focussing on narrow tracks rather than open bodies of water. Well, we now have a true Wave Race style game on modern consoles thanks to Aqua Moto Racing Utopia from Swedish developer Zordix.
There are two types of jet ski that you can race here, and they each have their own category. There are runabouts, watercraft where you sit down, and ski, where you’re standing up. The singleplayer has a division for each of these classes as well as a freestyle division that is all about tricks and stunts. The racing categories are pretty straightforward. They are split into different power categories with two championships for each one.
The level of difficulty progresses nicely throughout these categories. Your AI opponents start off pretty easy and become more challenging as you go on. The main issue with them is that in the latter series they are very aggressive towards you, constantly banging into you and knocking you out of the way of the buoys that you have to navigate. Miss three buoys and you are disqualified from the race. Unfortunately, this doesn’t appear to apply to your opposition though as I have witnessed one of the AI racers missing three buoys, but he kept on racing and was still classified at the end.
The various watercraft handle pretty well. The undulating waves affect your vessel just the way should. The only slightly strange thing about the handling model is that not only does the brake help you navigate around obstacles but it also helps you turn quicker whilst in the air. This may not be particularly realistic, but it certainly works well. Stunts and tricks are achieved with a combination of the left and right thumbsticks. The right thumbstick performing tricks and the left thumbstick controlling spins and flips. You can also use the right bumper to do barrel rolls.
In the visual department, the game is OK. It runs along pretty smoothly, and there are some nice visual touches, but this isn’t anywhere near the calibre of something like the Forza series. The waves also look a little disappointing after the incredible waters of Sea of Thieves. This is a budget title though and doesn’t have the resources of those AAA exclusives. The tracks have a nice design to them with each one being distinct from the other. The actual circuits work well with the level of waves definitely adding a required level of difficulty to the more open water events.
Aqua Moto Racing Utopia may be a bit of a mouthful, but it’s a fairly solid racing game. It’s never going to change the world or the minds of non-racing fans, but it’s a pleasant distraction for 10-12 hours. There is a multiplayer mode that will keep fans of the game occupied for longer, but I was unable to find any human opponents (the game will populate a race with AI opposition for you though if you’re adamant about racing in that mode). If you are a racing game fan with $20 burning a hole in your pocket, then this may be the game for you.