Game Review: Hydro Thunder Hurricane
Release: July 28, 2010
Developer: Vector Unit
Available Platforms: XBLA
ESRB Rating: E
Hydro Thunder Hurricane is a game that promises fast speed high action powerboat racing and it makes on that promise.. to some degree.
When going into this game, I was expecting a less than good experience. After about 20 minutes of playing I was actually enjoying the game, then after getting used to the handling of the boats and the gameplay mechanics I was flying around the courses having the time of my life. Hydro Thunder is one of the best entries to the Summer of Arcade and this game has enough replay value to justify a purchase.
The simple concept is that you are controlling a powerboat, racing across various (eight) different completely random tracks, whether it be in the middle of the jungle or through the rivers of Seoul, the game keeps the tracks fresh and not just with locations. You could be in the middle of a race and then all of a sudden a building could fly out of the sky and land directly in front of you causing you to jump over it and launch yourself into the air. The ever changing maps also change each race, with parts of the course becoming blocked off forcing you to take a different route and experience a totally different track. This is a really enjoyable feature in the game as you never know where your going to be racing next. The tracks also have plenty of hidden entrances and shortcuts but you have to be pretty skilled to hit them all. But if you are lucky enough to just reach that high ledge then you shall definitely reap the rewards.
Races aren’t the only things that are available in this game, because not only can you race, but three more game types are also available. The race mode is probably the main mode in the game, featuring racing against 16 different enemy boats to try and speed your way to the front of the pack. Then you have the Ring Master game mode in which you find yourself weaving between the track and following a set track of glowing rings through the course. Gauntlet is also a fun game mode, you are given the normal track but this time you have to get your way in between some explosive barrels that can destroy your boat in one hit. Finally you can play all of these in a Championship mode where you can be given a variety of these game modes in an order and you are given points in regards to your leaderboard position.
Many different boats are available to race with in this game, starting with the novice slow boats up to the speedy expert boats. The game progression takes care of this as you only unlock the further boats by winning a certain amount of events and gaining more points. The boats do run smoothly on the water but one thing that I was amazed with in this game is the water physics. Things falling into the water (giant crocodile monster) cause a huge ripple in the water launching anyone near it into the air. But then again the sea monster and enormous Viking also change the gameplay up quite a lot.
You can boost in this game and gaining boost is one of the most important mechanics in the game as the quest for boost is needed. If you don’t have boost then you won’t win, or even quality for any medals. Boost is activated by holding the A button and launches your boat pretty far ahead. Although my only gripe with the boosting system is if you run out of boost then your boat de-transforms from a boost stance and back into a normal boat, then when you gain more boost you have to wait another 2-3 seconds for the boost to actually kick in, and in some situations this can mean the different between first and second place. Multiplayer is also in this game, but as expected it just features all the things that you can do in single player in an online setting.
Final Thoughts: If you are looking for a fun quick XBLA game that you can pick up for 10 minutes to have a quick race around, then Hydro Thunder Hurricane is your thing. But if you are expecting a deep powerboat racing game then you will have trouble getting what you want out of this game. The variety of tracks is the strong point of this game, but after jumping off a waterfall 5 times, it gets kind of old.