“Surfin’ is the only life, the only way for me. Now surf, surf with me” – once sang The Beach Boys in the early 1960s. The history of getting up and standing on a piece of wood or plastic in order to go riding the waves can be sourced back to ancient Peru, yet the more recent Californian trend started in July 1885 when three Hawaiian Princes on break surfed in to California on some redwood boards. This caught on and soon everyone was at it. So would they be happy with the release of The Endless Summer Surfing Challenge on Xbox? I’m not so sure.
It’s hard to make a game that sums up the wild excitement of surfing the waves. On PC the developers made The Endless Summer Search For Surf which was a bigger, more open-world game that involved playing other games on jet skis as well as surfing. For the Xbox, we have this more limited experience, one that just concentrates on the surfing part. There aren’t any/many other surfing games around – only really Surf World Series and the upcoming Barton Lynch Pro Surfing 2022. Maybe there is a reason for this.
The whole point of the game is to surf, attempting to stay up on the board as you go earning points. It can be played on your own or with a friend locally in two-player and when the game launches it puts you straight into the action, with a little tutorial. You can pick your surfer from a selection of a few avatars and then you and a friend are just hanging out by the pier waiting for a wave to ride. When a wave pops up, you have to move along with it for a while and at the right moment you jump up onto the board and, before you know it, you are surfing the USA. Then it’s a case of moving in and out of the wave break trying not to fall off, all in hope of getting the longest time on the wave surfing. The tutorial asks you to earn a certain amount of points and then it’s finished.
While you surf there are twists and turns you can try and master on the board, helping to earn extra points and keeping the wave ride going that bit longer. You normally have a time limit for each round which lasts a couple of minutes but the actual controls aren’t as responsive as you would like them to be. Sometimes pointing in one direction directed me in another and when I pressed to stand it took a couple of beats to get me up there, while in other rounds it was instant. Also, there were times when it wiped me out for no reason at all. The logic of the gameplay isn’t as accurate as you would expect from a game where the sole purpose is the one gaming mechanic.
The options you have to play with are basically twelve different challenges that exist, mostly centred on ‘score this many points in the round’ or ‘stay on board for this amount of time’. It’s fine when you’ve finished the challenges but the experience is pretty much the same all the way through. Playing with a friend livens this up a bit, but only a bit I’m afraid.
The visuals of The Endless Summer Surfing Challenge aren’t the best and it looks like it should be a mobile game rather than one being powered by an Xbox Series X. Also at times the animation bugs out and the surfer does some strange things; stuff that shouldn’t belong in a modern game. The wave physics themselves are good and seem to work fine, but there isn’t anything that ever allows this surfing experience to feel anything near special. The sound is also just fine and does all the right things in the right places, but it is lacking the wow factor.
Maybe there is a reason that there are few surfing games on the market – perhaps it’s too hard to capture the thrill and wonder of surfing over the waves; one of those sporting experiences that is left for the real world. The Endless Summer Surfing Challenge tries to capture the thrills, but it fails. It’s not very exciting, a bit buggy, and you get tired of it very quickly.
The Endless Summer Surfing Challenge is on the Xbox Store