The Only Snowboard Game that’ll make you Sweat
When the PS2 first debuted, everyone thought the snowboarding game Cool Boarders was going to be the dominating snowboarding game since that was the story on the PlayStation. Then something BIG happened. EA Games debuted a new title for would-be and diehard snowboard fans, called SSX. There was not anything particularly special about this first installment, in fact it would not be until a sequel to the series titled SSX Tricky that general gamers took a strong notice. Who wouldn’t?
Tricky had noticeable voice actors, an over the top animated feel, and music that was not totally annoying. Now with the latest installment into the series with SSX Blur, EA Big has made several advancements and refreshed the series back to its cartoony successful predecessor.
A lot of the trademark style of the SSX series is here like racing, tricks, and the chance to unlock boards and costumes. The two player mode allows players to race a friend or compete in a trick contest. Of course, the screen is split when racing; this has been something that I wish could have done away with somehow, but it is no worse than any other split screen competition. As far as the trick competitions, you will take turns sharing the screen. The split screen should never hinder the coolness of the tricks.
Fans of the series will take note of returning favorites like Mac, Kaori, Psymon, and Allegra. We will also be adding two new favorites to our list. The characters look smooth and sharp. The animation does look a bit too cartoony at times, but hey, that is one of the strong appeals to the game. The snow looks very realistic and the bumping on the mountains looks amazing. Even with the characters having the over the top look they do, it would be easy to dismiss the amount of detail EA actually put into the models. For instance, each boarder has their own style when it comes to moves and stance on the board. In the past, when a character would wipe out in the snow they would get up and their appearance would not change. Now, however, when Mac hits the snow hard, he comes back up caked in the snow. This little addition to the detail will make any gamer chuckle at first, but when your friends start razing you about it you will want to knock them down so that they become caked in the snow. The voice-overs are a little easier to swallow this time around as well, and the melodic upbeat music adds a sense of tranquility to the three peaks you can dominate.
Returning from the SSX on Tour game are the skis. Most of your characters will be able to switch from their boards to skis during your career mode. These little sticks of wood offer a new set of tricks for you to master on the slopes. You will still have a Boost Meter, which has been dubbed the Über Meter this time around. All in all, this latest edition should feel like just another EA BIG SSX game, but it is on the Wii. This mark alone should instill the innovative Wii-mote and bring a pleasurable aspect to the game, right?
Unfortunately, this is one of the spots where the game falls from high hopes to devastating frustrations. While innovative, the game makes full use of both the Wii-mote and the Nunchuk figuring out the controls will take even the most experienced gamer a few rounds of disappointment to figure out. You use the Nunchuk to steer your character around the slopes, using the analog stick to slightly move and full tilting it to turn your character through turns. The Z button acts as your boost trigger if you have some. You are also supposed to use the Nunchuk to jump off of mounds of snow or the top of the pipes, but you can also use the A button on the Wii-mote to make this required action happen. You also have to hold the A button in order to gain a little speed without the boost. So far sounds like this is just your average control schematic, but when you start doing the tricks you will rely totally on the chaos factor, at least in the beginning.
Your spins, flips, and grabs all rely on you swinging around the Wii-mote in what is supposed to be a rational order. It, however, won’t happen that way in the beginning. Trying new jerks and flicks of the wrist will usually result in a wipeout just to get the hang of it. Nevertheless, these harmless follies in the beginning will appear as nothing once you reach the point of wanting to take on an Über trick. There are specific patterns that you will have to follow that become increasingly difficult and frustrating. Equally frustrating are the glitches. You will get stuck in a corner you can’t get out of. You will fall of edges repetitively. You will constantly run out of time. I say this because the timer is so small in the upper left corner, that it is very hard to read legibly. This oversight makes certain rounds less enjoyable and downright difficult.
SSX Blur could have been the definitive snowboarding game, but it has fallen short. It doesn’t matter that the returning characters are our favorites or that the sharper designs and tranquil backgrounds are some of the best in the series. It all boils down to the controls. When you have the capability to utilize the innovative controls of the Wii, sure use them to the fullest extent, but don’t leave the casual gamer in the powder while you do it. If you are a diehard fan of the series, or if you just want to see how frustrated the Wii can make you, then run out and pick up the control-confused title. However, don’t say I didn’t warn you.