Those looking for a totally tubular extreme sports challenge but who are burned out on Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series should look at Aspyr Media's Kelly Slater's Pro Surfer - an alternative that will let you use some of the same skills in a very different setting: the waves.
Pro surfer Kelly Slater is a Mac user in his own right. He was featured in early Switcher ads showing off video footage he'd edited with his Mac. But until recently, if you wanted to play his game, you had to buy a video-game console. Now Aspyr has brought the surfboarding action to the Mac.
The trappings of Kelly Slater's Pro Surfer will seem familiar to anyone who's played Tony Hawk. The trick engine is similar; it has a career mode, in which you unlock new areas by achieving goals; and you can pick an identity from a variety of real-world pro surfers. In fact, the actual mechanics of surfing are not unlike those of riding a half-pipe in Tony Hawk.
While riding waves, you try to string together as many tricks as possible to earn ever-higher combination scores. A trick meter gauges the success of your sequences. Once you've maxed out the meter, you'll be able to pull off mad tricks that wouldn't otherwise be possible.
The game's graphics are fantastic. In fact, they're better than what I've seen in the console versions - water effects are detailed and lifelike, with beautiful particle and translucency effects that really bring the game to life.
However, as with many games that have console pedigrees, you'll find it more satisfying to play on a game pad than on the keyboard, which I found cramped, lousily configured, and uncomfortable to use. The soundtrack is also good, evoking the mood of hanging out at the beach and trying to catch that perfect wave.
Kelly Slater's Pro Surfer doesn't offer Internet-based competition, which is probably just as well, as I've had little success with Tony Hawk's online modes. Aspyr advises Panther users to download a Pro Surfer patch (available from the company's Web site), which fixes problems specific to that operating system.
Fans of Tony Hawk's game franchise won't find a ton of surprises here. Still, Kelly Slater's Pro Surfer is well executed and fun.