Finally, a set of Championships bundle together different events plucked from the other three types into structured competitions. You earn credits for placing in the top three positions of any race, the money going towards auto-unlocking new events and boats across the entire game. While the game gives the illusion of non-linearity in its approach, in reality the staggered credit thresholds required to unlock each new event enable the developer to pick out a very specific line for players through the experience.
The racing itself is breakneck and enjoyable, drawing inspiration in terms of feel and style from Nintendo's Wave Race series. Set-piece explosions in the water cause huge waves to interrupt the flow of a race in interesting, dynamic ways, forcing you to constantly respond to the shifting 'ground' upon which you race, as well as what your rivals are doing at any one point.
The placement of nitro canisters is arranged in such a way to encourage you to find routes through a course that allow near-continuous speed-boosting, and the Boost Jump button, that catapults you into the air at a cost of some of your boost gauge, allows for more dynamic course design than would otherwise have been possible. Boat classes emphasize either speed or handling, and are different enough from one another to encourage thought when matching a vessel to a level.
Level types are pulled from videogame cliché: Monster Island a dash through a cat's cradle of Amazonian tributaries and ruins, while Paris Sewers and Area 51 provide obvious, if effective, counterpoints later in the experience. The bold, colourful aesthetic lacks Wave Race's warmth and, despite the high-contrast sheen, the game lacks real personality and character.
Despite this, Hydro Thunder Hurricane hits the keynotes required of any modern arcade racer, with a re-emphasis on secrets and shortcuts that the genre has perhaps lost in recent times. The two multiplayer modes - a straight race between eight players online, and Rubber Ducky, in which two teams try to nose their rubber duck past a threshold before their opponents - provide a good balance of competition and playfulness.
Indeed, this is a good summary of the wider experience, which asks players to experiment with the tools pressed into their hands, while keeping reminders of your friend's times and scores on screen at all times to focus the mind toward rivalry. The absence of personality and flourish perhaps comes from a general lack of nuance or innovation. But therein lies a reminder that the dumb arcade racer is a cornerstone of the videogame medium. While there's scant cultural prestige to be found in that fact, neither should there be any shame.
7 / 10
Hydro Thunder Hurricane launches on Xbox Live Arcade this Wednesday, 28th July, for 1200 Microsoft Points (Ł10.20 / €14.40).