Riptide GP2 (iOS|Android) brings the best jet-ski racing game on smartphones back for another run, but in this sequel you get new tracks, dynamic wave physics, online multiplayer, and more cool features that make it even better.
Graphics and gameplay
Riptide GP2 gets just about everything right. The worlds and tracks are amazingly detailed, with different themes that have you racing on a suspended track high in the air in some rounds, and others where you race through frozen worlds of ice and waterfalls. There are eight worlds in all, with several races in each where you strive to get a three-star rating by beating the AI racers or racing against the clock.
There are a number of different race types as you play through Career Mode, with standard races against AI opponents; Hot Lap, which has you compete for a top time; Elimination, where the player in last place is eliminated at 10-second intervals; and Freestyle events, where your job is to pull off the most and best tricks possible to get the high score. You also can participate in online multiplayer, where you'll be matched up with another person to race in real time, but there are no multiplayer group races.
As you race around tracks, you'll find ramps and large waves that let you perform tricks to build your boost. You start with a variety of basic tricks in the beginning. But as you earn money by winning races, you can buy more-complex tricks from fancy handstands to absurd end-over-end spinning moves that would be impossible in the real world. There are 25 tricks you can unlock in all. The harder the trick, the more boost power you get, but if you land the trick wrong and wipe out, you'll lose time and probably lose the race.
What truly makes the game a joy to play are the realistic wave physics. Along with the smooth, flowing feeling of carving through turns, you'll also need to navigate through the wakes of your opponents. Waves form dynamically as you race, so you'll be battling the surface of the track as well as the game's many hairpin turns and ramps.
Purchases and upgrades
Between races you can upgrade and customize your hydro-jets (jet skis) to give you an edge. Riptide lets you use your race winnings to buy upgrades for acceleration, top speed, handling, and improving your boost. Each upgrade to a single skill costs more than the one before, so you'll need to keep racing to earn more cash. Like many games these days, you can buy in-game cash with real money, but I found you can definitely earn it on your own with a little patience.
As you progress, you'll also be able to buy new, cool-looking hydro-jets with more power and better maneuverability. The hydro-jets are expensive, so you'll need to balance the need to upgrade an old hydro-jet with saving money for new ones. Buying new hydro-jets is where the temptation to use real money for in-game cash is difficult to ignore. But with a racing game of this caliber, it won't be that hard to continue racing to slowly earn the money.
Boost is the key
You can choose from a few different control systems in the settings, but it's important to note that none of them lets you control the throttle. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, because you need to concentrate more on making smooth turns and pulling off amazing tricks in order to build boost power. While throttle control would be nice, it's the boost ability that gives you an extra burst of power for higher jumps and careening past your opponents. I stuck with the default control system that lets you tilt to steer and use gestures for tricks, but there are gamepad options for steering if that's your preference.
So, what's the drawback?
Like any jet-ski racer, I can't help but compare Riptide GP 2 to the ancient, yet amazing, Wave Race 64. While the graphics for Riptide are obviously better than what we had on the Nintendo 64, for raw gameplay I think the comparison is valid.
The different game types and outlandish tricks keep the gameplay interesting in Riptide, but one feature in Wave Race 64 could have added to the fun in this game: forward and back tilt controls. Wave Race let you dive into the water and shoot back out, giving you the opportunity to create air for a trick, while you'll only be able to perform tricks off of ramps and occasional large waves in Riptide. It's not a huge drawback, but it's a feature I continue to miss in water-racing games to this day.
Overall, Riptide GP2 is an excellent water racer that looks as good as it plays. With online multiplayer, upgrades, and several tracks on different worlds, it has a ton of replay value.