Surf's Up was the third and last game to make use of Amiga's JoyBoard controller. The JoyBoard was a quirky device that you would stand on and lean in the direction you wanted your character to move. An interesting concept, but it didn't work overly well and only one officially released game (Mogul Maniac) made use of it. While Amiga's second game Off Your Rocker was sold in limited quantities through Happy Valley Video, Surf's Up was never sold in stores.
In case you haven't guessed, Surf's Up is a surfing game which attempts to use the JoyBoard to mimic a surfboard. While this wasn't a bad idea in concept, the gameplay didn't quite work out the way Amiga had hoped. The game is pretty much a balance contest as you stand on the JoyBoard trying not to fall off as you move back and forth in an attempt to 'ride those tasty waves' and avoid sea critters.
You control a little yellow surfboard (which just happens to be about the same size and shape as the JoyBoard) which you can move about the screen in an attempt to "ride the wave". The mechanics of this aren't well understood, but there are two lines that are used to represent the wave. The top line never moves, while the bottom line will slowly move up to meet the top line. When this happens a brief red flash will appear then the line will go the bottom of the screen again. After a while of moving around these two lines will stay together, it's at this point you can start scoring points.
To score points you literally need to jam your surf board into the lines. Every time you do this your score will increase. You can leave you board on the lines for a while to rack up a score (and bonus points if you do it long enough), but after some time you'll wipe out. This time becomes shorter and shorter as the level wears on. You'll also notice a flashing dash on the left edge of the screen. This dash appears to be a timer of some sort. It goes down each time you wipe out and each time you miss a wave. When it disappears completely the game ends. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be any way to replenish this bar and it doesn't reset at the start of each level. If you do manage to last long enough you'll eventually land on the beach where you'll hear a cute little jingle and a flashing bar will appear on the side of the screen based on how high the timer was. After the tune plays you'll be taken to the next level.
If you find the gameplay a bit boring and want a little more of a challenge then you can flip the left difficulty switch to the A position and you'll have to deal with all sorts of ocean life. Snakes, whales, coral, tentacles, and bits of broken pier will all make your life much more difficult. The snakes and whales (well their tails anyway) are easy enough to avoid, but you'll want to position your board between the coral chunks, tentacles, and piers as they come in pairs. Depending on the level, these obstacles move at a leisurely pace or quite fast. Also be aware that you can only move the surf board left or right when you're up on the wave and not at the bottom of the screen. As you may have guessed, hitting any of these will cause you to wipe out.
While the gameplay is a bit on the confusing side, the graphics in Surf's Up are very well done. The title screen shows a little man (who looks like a stick figure) on a surfboard in a rather well drawn ocean scene. The next screen shows a first person view of the ocean from your surfboard as you pick which level you want to start on. The starting level changes the speed of your board and the sea critters and may also have some effect on how long you can stay on top of a wave. The main game screen shows your little yellow surfboard on a moving blue ocean with some palm trees, houses, and a volcano! in the background. The rhythmic roll of the ocean has been nicely implemented with moving blue lines which give you a calm, relaxed feeling. If your score is high enough (between 10,000 and 20,000) the game will play some music at the end. If you score more than 20,000 the volcano will even erupt with some smoke which is a nice touch.
All in all Surf's Up isn't really a bad game, plus it is the only surfing game for the 2600 in the US (unless you count the surfing sequence in California Games). Using an actual JoyBoard instead of an emulator will enhance the gameplay slightly, but not enough to make you want to play it for more than a few minutes. In all fairness to Amiga, they may have still been tweaking the gameplay since this is a prototype. However I don't see what more could be done to make this game interesting since what you can do is limited by the JoyBoard itself (no wild tricks or dangerous jumps would be possible). An A for effort, but a C for execution.