Carve is one of the innumerable water racing games that strives to cash in on the immense popularity of Nintendo's Wave Race from way back 1996. As it is, it's a perfectly serviceable game—adequate in every respect such that fans of the genre will find satisfaction, but conversely lacking any noteworthy stylistic or mechanical innovation to separate it from the pack.
It's hard to really hate on the game, because it doesn't do anything poorly. In fact, the trick system is kind of cool… but not that cool. The cast of characters is painfully generic, as are the track designs and the faux-techno soundtrack. Carve's most redeeming quality is its integration of a trick system that adds a little bit of flourish to the race. Doing tricks builds up a "rush" meter, which when it is full initiates a sudden burst of speed. The tricks are ridiculously easy to do, actually borrowing at least a couple of moves straight from the original Wave Race and throwing in some face-button combinations that can be strung together for big points and correspondingly big bursts of speed.
Take the basic trick system, add it to some everyday track layouts that aren't really bad or all that special, and you've got the game. As with every racing game, there are standard modes like Arcade, Tournament, and in this case even a nifty Xbox Live multiplayer. Throw in your usual allotment of unlockable fizz-bang and you have a tiny amount of replay value. Nothing, however, stands out for having any degree of creativity.
The game's presentation also falls under "serviceable"; none of the water effects, animations, or textures stand out in any way. Even the water-droplets-on-the-screen trick is getting old. The sound and music are a both muddled and unimpressive. Again, they aren't bad, just nothing to write home about.
Carve is perfectly good. It's a lot like Wave Race, but Wave Race was something entirely new, and it was so well done that it still holds up pretty well today. Carve is a lot like Wave Race. Heck, if this game had been released in 1996, it would have been a classic. But it was about eight years too late, and ends up only being good enough not to be a complete wash up.
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