Promethean Designs website was to feature an open world which could be explored in your powerboat, allowing you to take in different environments with 'rapids, ravines and choppy ocean courses.' It all sounded very promising - if a little ambitious - and was a game I was looking forward to getting my hands on. At some point in 2000 though, Promethean Designs changed their name to East Point Games, cancelled a load of interesting titles (see Picassio and Renegade Racers for further info) and spewed Aqua GT out onto an unsuspecting public, before quietly going bust and vanishing into the ether with little more than a disappointing sigh.
Looking at the features bandied about back when Aqua GT was known as Hydro Sprint, it's hard not to be majorly disappointed with the game that actually came out. This is less a Hydro Thunder-killer, and more a wet fart. But I'm getting ahead of myself (as usual). Let's look at what Aqua GT is, before we delve deeper into what it is not. We've already established that this is a powerboat racing game, and it plays like a fairly bog-standard arcade racer of the period. There's a championship mode, which is split into four different tiers (bronze, silver, gold and champions) with each getting progressively tougher the further you go. There's also an arcade mode where you get to choose your track and boat, alter the number of laps and the difficulty (which also changes the amount of allotted time you have in which to complete the race) and then you hit the water and race. The tracks are all meant to represent real-life rivers or canals in some of the world's great cities, so you'll get to race on the Thames in London, the Seine in Paris and the historic canals in Vienna. The number of circuits is fairly paltry to be honest (7 in total) and there is no way to race in reverse or mirror mode, but you do get to choose whether you race during the day or night, and whether at high or low tide.
|The 80s called. They want their loading screen back.|
The races move at a pedestrian rate of knots (pun intended), with you occasionally bouncing off the walls or off a mindless adversary who just ploughs on regardless, at maximum speed and into the distance without ever needing to slow down to take even the sharpest of hairpin corners. The water effects too, are lacklustre. Look at Wave Race 64, it is a game on a system that came out nearly five years prior to Aqua GT and is on a system that is less technically advanced than the Dreamcast..but the water effects are light years ahead of the non-reflective jelly-like substance you are racing on in Aqua GT. Sure, the boats look OK and the day/night option allows for some interesting light sourcing in places, but everything else about Aqua GT's visuals is bargain basement.
|Hydro Sprint preview taken from Dreamcast Magazine issue 6|
For some reason, Aqua GT is now one of those games - like Evil Twin - that seems to be mind-bogglingly expensive on eBay, and this may be due to the fact that it's a PAL exclusive. It certainly isn't because it's a quality racer that everyone with a Dreamcast feels it is their duty to own. No, if you're hankering for some water-based racing on your Dreamcast that looks great, sounds good and plays well then I'd suggest seeking out a copy of Hydro Thunder; and unless you're a collector going for a full set I'd give Aqua GT a wide birth. This one should have been scuttled along with Picassio and Promethean Designs.