Hydro Storm is a web-based racing game that’s soggy around the edges

If the movie Waterworld ever had a decent message to impart on the masses, it wasn’t about the dangers of global warming. Instead, it was about how cool jet skis could be if someone decided to mount weaponry on them. Hydro Storm definitely believes in this message, though it’s more than a little garbled in its delivery.

Players take on the role of a grizzled warrior competing in a post-apocalyptic death race. Instead of cars, motorcycles, or tanks, however, weaponized jet skis are the vehicles of choice. Exactly what happened to the world, who the warrior is, or why jet skis are the preferred method of transport is never really explained. In fact there’s no discernable story whatsoever, there’s just a setting that players are thrust into without any explanation.

The game plays out a bit like Mario Kart, but it lacks the sense of fun. There are eight characters in a race, and they’re encouraged to blow each other out of the water along the way. At the moment the game only features a single-player campaign, which is a shame, since this is the kind of title that feels like it would be better if players could compete against one another.

As players race through the relatively small maps, they pick up abilities that they use to take out their competition. The pick-ups include speed boosts, smoke screens, mines, and a couple of types of missiles.

Hydro Storm

Not all the racing elements work, either. Acceleration and turning controls are just fine, but holding down shift to execute a sharp turn is fairly imprecise. Also, if a player collides with another jet ski, they’ll slow down drastically, nearly to the point of standstill if the jostling goes on for more than a second or two.

In order to advance in the game and get to the next race track in the campaign, players need to come in first place. Any other position results in failure, meaning the race has to be attempted all over again. Unfortunately the race tracks are sometimes a little confusing to navigate, and there’s no mini map that lets players keep track of their location. As a result, race tracks tend to take at least a couple of tries to complete, which is more than a little frustrating.

Visually, this isn’t bad for a web game. The 3D graphics wouldn’t have looked out of place on the original PlayStation console, but it’s an imperfect execution, particularly when the action is underway. On one hand the various levels look fascinating; the devastated world and its polluted skies look incredibly interesting as they race by. On the other hand, things are often jagged and awkward.

Explosions tend to appear as white rectangles. The water animation is pretty basic. The colors are pretty washed out. Smoke screens obscure everything, even when the player is the one activating them.

The audio is equally mixed. The sound effects (engine noise, weapon firings, etc.) are solid but they overpower the rather generic heavy metal soundtrack, which unfortunately amounts to a pretty discordant combination during the actual races.

Hydro Storm is one of those games that feels like it should be better than it actually is. There’s something good here, albeit beneath a lack of polish and in need of some extra features. As it stands, the game is certainly worth checking out because of the interesting setting, but there isn’t much else that is really all that endearing.