With the colder winter months fast-approaching, most of us are bidding our beach days adieu until next June. Luckily, you don’t have to lock up your surf skills just yet. With Chillingo’s new surf action game Billabong Surf Trip, iPhone users can ride the tube, go toes on the nose, and even weather the occasional wipe out.
After going through the initial setup steps of Billabong Surf Trip (choosing and customizing the appearance of a surfer), players are introduced to the four professional surfers of the Billabong Team, who serve as mentors in the game. The levels take place in various surfing hotspots all over the world. At the start of each level, trivia about the location and the surf is listed at the bottom of the screen. From there, one of the Billabong Teammates lay out the maneuvers that must be completed to pass that round.
The graphics are well rendered, and playing the game is reminiscent of actually being far offshore, immersed in the surf. The movements of the ocean are realistic, and even as players are performing less demanding tasks like paddling towards waves, the steady rise and fall of the tide is ever-present. The surfer animation is fine; each of the customizable faces looked exactly the same to me, but my surfer girl moved around athletically enough. At the end of each ride, enthusiastic beachgoers can be heard cheering (although, to be honest, they’re easily impressed— it doesn’t take much to get the crowd oohing and ahhing). Billabong Surf Trip often feels more like a surf video than a sports game. Underwater views are common, and each time the surfer catches a wave, his or her pop up is in slow motion, and the viewpoint whips around to another angle. The result is a game that seems like just as much entertainment as it is competition.
Within the game, there are eighteen real-life surfing tricks that can be performed by combining different patterns of movement on the left and right analog sticks. The maneuvers are not terribly difficult; I found timing to be the trickiest part of landing a trick. To pass each level, the manuevers must be completed within a given time limit. Any additional tricks completed will up your score, earning you more mondo points (which can be used as currency for a new board or swimsuit). If you want to take a break and enjoy the electronic surf without time constraints, you can also play in Surf Spots mode, where players have the opportunity to practice maneuvers in Free Play.
Billabong Surf Trip is everything a sports game should be: well made, compelling, and challenging. However, the element that’s really going to leave those who purchase it (for $2.99 in the App Store) satisfied is the embodiment of contemporary surf culture that it manages to create. From the chill vibe of the rock soundtrack to the feeling of Zen that comes with floating on a board waiting for the next wave to rise, Billabong Surf Trip ultimately provides a realistic, enjoyable surfing experience.
[Stephanie Kent is an editorial intern for Macworld.]