The second release in the 2010 Winter of Arcade, Hydro Thunder Hurricane, may seem familiar to some out there. This is because it is a sequel to the original 1999 arcade great, Hydro Thunder, which also appeared on the Dreamcast, Playstation, and N64. Various spin offs where also made including 4X4 Thunder and Arctic Thunder. So what we have here is a good solid arcade jet boat racer that really reminds me of Star Wars: Episode One – Pod Racer, which is a good thing in my books.
After last weeks short but brilliant Limbo, I’m glad to say that Hydro Thunder Hurricane has substantially more legs (flippers?) too it, even if it is a tried and true arcade racer. With four different single player modes as well as eight player Live! multiplayer, and four player local multiplayer, there is plenty to keep you going, even if it is only on eight different courses. The good thing about each of the eight courses is the amount of different paths and secret routes there are one each one. This can cause a basic three lap race to become quite strategic in which path you take. There is also a swag of unlockable boats and paint jobs for those who want more.
The gameplay is as simple as you would expect from an arcade racer, accelerate and brake with the triggers, steer with the left stick, and boost and jump with the A and X buttons respectively. But before you can jump or boost you need to pick up the boost power ups that are scattered around the courses. Once collected you can expend these power ups by boosting your speed to catch your opponents or to launch off a ramp to gain access to a secret route, or by doing small jumps with your boat to avoid explosives, rocks or other obstacles. This small jump is also useful in gathering just out of reach collectables and power ups. Also scattered around each course are switch pick ups which raise and lower ramps, and turn on wave makers. Useful to access that hidden area or grab that out of reach collectable.
The exception to this power up gathering is during the Ring Master Mode. In Ring Master, a basic follow the rings slalom mode, your Boost Meter is increased each time you pass through a ring, meaning if you are good enough you will have a constant supply of boost. But miss one ring and your Boost Meter is emptied and missing a ring at the wrong time could leave you out of boost when you need to make a jump to follow the ring path. Ring Master Mode is also a good mode to find many of the secret routes you may have missed in standard race mode as the path of the rings will quite often take you through these secret locations.
Gauntlet Mode pits you against the clock with the added bonus of explosive barrels scattered around the course. Hitting one of these barrels will cause you to respawn, adding valuable seconds to your time. The final mode is Championship Mode which takes a selection of Gauntlet, Ring Master, and Race events and combines them in a championship system with points awarded for where you place in each event, the most points at the end winning the championship. Add to these modes the multiplayer element and you have a pretty decent arcade racer, on water.
It really looks like Microsoft are holding onto some really great titles each year for their Winter of Arcade promotion and while Hydro Thunder Hurricane is by no means ground breaking or leading edge stuff, it is still a very solid and enjoyable arcade racer. The visuals are nice and the controls responsive, which is good for this kind of game. I did have one moment when I nose dived under the water and ended up outside the game area with out being respawned but the Back button respawns you anyway, so no biggie. And again, like Limbo, to make the 1200 MS Points a bit easier to swallow you can easily earn a T-Shirt and a Prop for your Avatar. If you want a good solid arcade racer in your XBLA library then by all means grab Hydro Thunder Hurricane, it’s a great example and more than enjoyable to play.
Released 28/7/2010 for 1200 MS Points.