Thursday, 12 June 2014

Random Game I've Never Heard Of #10

Bakuryu a.k.a. Wild Rapids (2000)
By: Fujimic Inc. Genre: Racing Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: Sony PlayStation
Also Available For: Nothing

One of the great things about the really successful consoles such as the PlayStation is that amongst its millions of releases are lots of obscure, niche titles that cover all sorts of ground left untouched by releases on other systems. One great example is this game which I discovered just this past week, having never previously even heard of it. It must've received a release somewhere in the West judging by its alternate title but it was the Japanese version I happened upon and was surprised but pleased to find a racing game, albeit one featuring kayaks in place of cars! Aside from the rowing event in Daley Thompson's Decathlon on the Speccy I don't think I've ever been in command of an engine-less boat in a video game before so I was immediately intrigued by this largely unknown game.

Eeek, waterfall coming up!
There's no fancy intro sequence or training mode or anything like that here, just a menu offering the usual choices of Tournament, Time Attack, Vs Battle, or Options, but whichever one you choose you're thrown straight in at the deep end, so to speak. There are nine courses in total (eight normal and one secret), set on various themed waterways around the world like Jungle, Europe, Volcano, Glacier, etc. At first, though, you can only use a single practice course - the others are unlocked for use in all modes one by one as you reach them in the Tournament mode. Before doing this you can choose from five characters (three male, two female) who have differing power, rolling, acceleration, and speed ratings, and there are also five kayaks to choose from which differ by volume, rolling, acceleration, and speed.

Yes, this jungle stage is as hardcore as it looks!
After making your choices, you're straight into the race. Qualifying isn't necessary (or possible) as the game helpfully puts you at the back of the field automatically, but it's not as difficult to play as you might expect. I was half expecting a button-bashing system for the rowing, much like the legendary Decathlon, but it's simply a case of holding down a single 'row' button. There's also a button to 'jump' (not sure how that would work in real life though), another that performs a twirly attack, and the shoulder buttons either roll in either direction or allow you to make sharper turns by sticking an oar in the water. The controls are straightforward enough then, which is just as well since the courses can be a real challenge at first. The watery parts are strictly defined so you can't run aground or anything - you'll just bump off the edge if you get too close - but they're definitely not so simple otherwise.

The Glacier stage is one of my favourites...
As you might have guessed, what with the lack of engines and all, the courses are all downhill, but their steepness as well as length varies from one to another. Almost all of them also have large drops such as waterfalls, although you can rotate the kayak while in mid-air ensuring you land in the water facing the right direction (which is very helpful), and the waterways are all dotted with various hazards and obstructions too. These can include rocks falling from the sky and the odd partially-submerged obstacle, but mainly take the form of rocks, icebergs, and similar debris (even crocs on the jungle stage!), and they can prove mighty troublesome. Steering around them is simple enough in the wider stretches of water when you can see them coming from a mile off, but it soon gets a bit more difficult when you're plummeting down into a narrower channel filled with multiple obstructions whilst fending off your ever-present, not to mention often-boisterous rivals!

The buildings are a bit wonky in this European stage...
Hitting one of these pesky things causes you to stop dead until you can 'bump' your way around it, and you can often get flipped upside down for a few seconds too. Even hitting the side of the course too hard can do this, as can jostling with an opponent too aggressively. Fortunately there aren't too many of these oafs though - each race is contested by five paddlers but the rules aren't very strict. To start with you only have to finish in the top three to progress to the next course but the last few raise this limit. Even so, there's no time-limits or checkpoints or anything like that, and the other racers usually stay fairly close together (though often with the exception of the leader who goes streaking off into the distance) so you're rarely left in a totally hopeless position. The other side of that, of course, is that it's easy to lose places when you get stuck on a bloody rock or something.

Hooollllyyyy shhiiittt! The highest drop in the game!
Of course, an advantage of putting an unusual spin on such a popular genre is that the novelty value will mask any gameplay problems to some extent but, besides the lack of any bells and whistles and the questionable amount of challenge contained within, there really isn't much in the way of issues. The graphics match the no-frills approach to the gameplay really, consisting of decent, distinctive-looking stages, most of which feature lots of interesting sights to distract you from the job at hand. I'm not too keen on some of the bendy-twisty textures used for the scenery though. The water effect is pretty average too - it's nowhere near as good as something like Wave Race, being distinctly bereft of waves and splooshiness, but the sensation is speed is often very effective which is most appropriate considering. The music is mainly pretty good though. Each course has its own tune with the styles varying accordingly, but most of them are suitably pleasant.

This is the 'America' stage... Colorado River?
It's very much like the game itself really. It's not one to take too seriously and it shouldn't get you too worked up. It can be a little frustrating at times, if you hit a rock right near the end of a race for example (grrr!), but all the courses will probably be at least seen, if not won, within the first few hours of play. This may sound bad (and I suppose it's not ideal) but it does open them all up for the other play modes such as the decent Vs Battle (two-player split-screen) mode. There are a few unlockable bits and bobs too, and even a few forked-routes, but the courses are interesting enough for repeated plays in their own right, again most likely due to the novelty value. As far as racing games in general go, it's pretty good fun, but it's also quite limited and there are many better examples on the PlayStation. As a kayaking game, though, it's in a league of its own and is therefore the best such title I've ever played! If careering down raging torrents appeals to you, give it a try...

RKS Score: 7/10


  1. The only other kayaking game that springs to mind is one of our favoured events in Summer Games II on the C64. Played top down, a bit like Toobin:
    The same game also has a rowing event.

    There's a canoe in Dragon's Lair 2:

  2. Hmm Interesting! never seen kayaking video game before :) speaking of random games, this is what I've found, Papas Games - restaurant management cooking games collection, all of them are simply aweome

  3. Thanks Niks! :)

    Hello again Mr Ant :) I don't think I played that one, I was never really keen on mutli-event sports titles (although Decathlon wasn't bad - that came free with my Speccy). Toobin is pretty cool though, so I'm sure I'd enjoy it. That canoe section in Dragon's Lair looks quite decent but I was expecting laserdisc footage! :P

    Hi Renno, thanks for dropping by :) Can't say I've heard of Papas games but they look weird enough that I'd like them :P