When I think of aqua racing, I’m immediately taken back to the glory days of the Nintendo 64 and the massively popular WaveRace 64. That game, for its time, was fun, fast paced, challenging and gorgeous. So much so that to this day, I cant recall a title that I’ve played that even comes close to its well developed systems. Does Aqua Moto Racing Utopia steal that mantle? No, not even by the longest of shots. Aqua Moto Racing Utopia is a laggy, UI bombing mess that comes tethered to loading times that would put Duke Nukem Forever to shame. It’s unfortunate really, because if the optimization was better set and the game was given more polish and balance to its gameplay, we could have been looking at an entirely different beast.
Though, even with those issues in mind, Aqua Moto Racing Utopia is still a passable game, especially if you enjoy the formula. There’s a lot of perseverance involved when you first boot up the title, so we’ll tackle these downsides first. Loading up the game you’ll be able to select your avatar, against a small pool of customization. Problems with the performance comes into view immediately. The UI is well laid out for the most part, but navigating it is far removed. There’s a considerable amount of lag when you’re doing something as basic as selecting a specific option, or browsing through a list of options. It took me north of thirty seconds just to select the region I wanted to play as, due to no other reason than a delayed slider that seems to have a mind of its own.
Once this is done, players are able to customize their avatar’s appearance via a selection of generic options; gender, outfit colors, size, facial features, tattoos and so on and so forth. From here, the game asks whether or not you want to take on a tutorial, which is naturally a great place to start for newcomers and curious players alike. The tutorial provides tips on how to race and stunt, without outstaying its welcome. It would have been nice if the tutorial was a little bit clearer as to what it requires you to do, but as it stands, it gets the job done either way. When you’re done with the tutorial (which can be taken on time and time again), the main menu allows you to dive into single events, championships, split screen play and online. Safe to say that there’s no shortage of content included.
Online play remains quite empty, which is pretty much a given when we take into account that Aqua Moto Racing Utopia has had very little promotion leading up to its Xbox One release. Hopefully we see this fill out in due course, but I would lying if I said I held any hope for that to come to past. That being said, if you’re looking for some friendly fun and can band together some family and friends, the split screen mode offers a sizable amount of content to keep the game alive for some addition hours. The campaign, on the other hand, is split into three sections; Runabout Division, Ski Division and Freestyle Division. Each division offers a number of championships to take to, with each growing in difficulty as you dive deeper in. The main differences between each of these divisions is that two (Runabout and Ski) are racing based, whereas the final division (Freestyle) is stunt based.
One of the best aspects of Aqua Moto Racing Utopia is that it boasts a surprisingly robust selection of tracks to take to, over forty in fact, spanning over ten locations. Many of these locations tend to slightly alter the fields of play via calm/rough water behavior, which is a nice touch. I quite enjoyed the track design, too. Each track has been carefully developed to ensure that the gameplay remains fresh and exciting from beginning to end, regardless as to which location you’re situated at. Group this with the several modes that are on offer and there’s little reason to scoff at the generous asking price here, more so given the fact that the game is half price during launch week. On the topic of its price, Aqua Moto Racing Utopia is well worth the price of admission, even with it’s issues in place. Though, as already aforementioned, several aspects of the game already mentioned, and yet to mention, hinders the overall package.
Gameplay is fairly straightforward. Each track, depending on your mode, will have a set amount of buoys in place. Red buoys need passing on the right, whereas yellow buoys need passing on the right. Failing to correctly pass a buoy will result in a swift respawn, much like when you hit an object or go off track. There are also some poker-like chips littered all over each track, in which collecting as many of these as possible, will up your currency and allow you to purchase new goodies. There’s also a boost gauge in place that can be slowly filled by successful landing stunts and correctly passing buoys. Once full, you can utilize a brief yet effective boost that can help to give you an edge over the competition. The only downside to this is that stunts are not nearly as interesting or as diverse as they could have been. This is a shame, really, because the game is quite deep elsewhere and would have certainly benefited from some extra care and attention to its wilder side.
The different watercraft’s come with varying stats, covering the usual pros and cons; speed, handling and so on. It certainly pays off to find a craft you’re comfortable with, but for the most part, they all tend to vary in such a way that no single vehicle feels outmatched. Much like alluded to above, there’s a lot to soak up within and heaps of different (mostly) fun events and tracks to enjoy. Sadly, outside of the poor optimization, the visuals come second place in Aqua Moto Racing Utopia’s list of issues, followed closely by poor audio. Regardless as to the fact that Aqua Moto Racing Utopia has a lot of depth, the visuals look very dated, sitting somewhere in the region of mid-last gen visuals. The same can be said about the soundtrack and audio cues, which does very little to bolster what could have been a much better, more refined title. Had Aqua Moto Racing Utopia had better optimization, better visuals, better stunts and better audio, I would have been inclined to give it a much higher score.
Aqua Moto Racing Utopia suffers from poor optimization, dated visuals, bland audio and a lack of decent stunts. Though, it has to be said that at its generous price, there’s a plethora of content to take to across several varying modes. It’s far from perfect, that much goes without saying, but if you’re looking for something akin to Wave Race 64, this will just about do the trick, warts and all.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.