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Surface Rush – Review

Surface Rush is a nostalgic throwback to early mobile gaming in some ways as it emulates physics games where you’d fling a character around on screen to collect things and reach a destination. The difference here is we are on the big screen consoles and yet it still feels oddly at home.

Every move comes from you and holding onto a move before you make it allows the world to line up around you. You stay still – the world moves on.

The game takes place underwater with bold blue graphics and your portable ship/helmet can move in any direction. All you do is flick the analogue stick and judge the speed by how far you push and off and away you go. Your character will keep going until they die, reach the end of the level or you course correct it. At the bottom of the screen is an oxygen meter and that depletes as you move around the level so the game is far from infinite. Instead, you’ll be looking at how to reach the next oxygen bubble checkpoint to refill your air and set off again.

Levels are maze like and get complicated as you move through the campaign mode. Initially the trick is precision – avoid the spikes or mechanical clasps. Then other dangerous animals join in like octopus and sharks. Mines are tricky as you’ll sometimes need to ram boulder blocks into them to set off a minefield to advance. Portals take you to different areas and there are a ton of projectile pads that will push you around. By the time you reach the second half of the game, Surface Rush has more affinity to a pinball game than a platformer. This is because levels are set up like a booby trap conveyor belt and you need to time your movements to avoid traps and take the safe routes. Levels require stars to be collected to unlock more levels and additional modes so it pays to replay them to work out where everything is.

Portals, spikes, keys, creatures, mines and just a single oxygen bubble to have respite in. Levels sprawl over many screens.

You’ll die a lot but a respawn is quite and easy and since levels rarely last beyond 90 seconds until late game your progress isn’t too hampered. As you collect coins you’ll be able to buy cosmetics but also different ships. These all have different stats so if you struggle with speed, you can pick a slower more precise one. The trade off is that their oxygen will be usually lower and so you’ll need to be direct with your routes. Outside of campaign, three other modes are available with timed modes and a very tricky one-shot mode for a puzzle side to Surface Rush. I personally struggled with these challenges but had enough fun with the main mode to say I’d enjoyed myself. One shot was especially hard because its a bit of trial and error and every degree angle of nuance mattered. It’s a mode for more patient gamers than I but its a nice addition to have alongside the main campaign.

Does Surface Rush change gaming or your life? No. It does offer a very well made simple flick the character around style game though. Levels are well designed and the challenge to collect everything will keep you going for quite a few hours. It ran great on both PS4 and PS5 with my crossbuy purchase and felt like a nostalgic throwback to simpler gaming times like an early PS3 digital release. Enjoyable.

Surface Rush
Final Thoughts
A simple, tactile 2D physics bouncer that does a lot with its one trick game mechanic.
Easy to pick up, difficult to master gameplay mechanic.
Well thought out and varied levels.
Multiple modes offer very different challenges.
Unlockable ships can help or hinder you based on your choices.
Could have made use of the touchpad to feel more tactile maybe?
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