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In Memory
Sean Pettibone


SSX Blur
(EA for Wii)

By Michael Palisano

SSX Blur is an solid installment in the long-running snowboarding franchise that takes advantage of the Wii's innovative controller to create an immersive and exciting experience. Controlling the moves and tricks of each boarder requires you to move the controller which lets you perform some intense move easily and intuitively. Playing the game is fairly easy and it's non-linear structure and varied runs gives it great variety. There's plenty of unlockable content to keep you motivated throughout and the solid production values make for an excellent looking title. Look inside and find out why SSX Blur is a refreshing change of pace for the series.

EA's SSX series seems to have found a new spark of energy and innovation with it's debut on the Wii. It definitely benefits immensely from using the Wii's controller to create a truly original and engaging interface that makes the experience feel unique and fresh. Players who've played earlier installments in the SSX series should feel right at home with its' options and modes. The game gives players a pretty standard set of options, modes and characters. You begin the game on an open slope and can board your way into different challenges that include standard races, big air challenges, half-pipe competitions and more. You can also compete in a number of multi-event tournaments which can then be used to amass points to unlock additional courses, snowboards, characters and accessories. As you play through each level in the game, your character builds up their power-gauge by completing stunts and tricks. When this is active, you can press on the boost button to cause a dramatic increase in speed that causes the screen to blur. If your indicator reaches the top of the screen, you can then unlock uber-tricks which allow you to perform massive, multi-move combos for huge points and more. The courses themselves are fairly easy to navigate and offer the expected mix of jumps, rails and corners, along with obstacles that you need to avoid. SSX Blur's open-ended structure means players don't have to complete missions in a specific order and can change events if something is becoming frustrating and come back to them later. Your main objective is to beat the course itself initially, but you also have to look out for your opponents as well. As you go along in each race, you can also interact with the other characters by throwing snowballs at them or knocking them off the track.

While SSX Blur might seem like just another snowboarding title on the surface, one of the key elements of its appeal lies in its controls which are both innovative and intuitive. Unlike many third-party releases that use the Wiimote in a somewhat predictable way, SSX Blur's control system is innovate and creates a refreshing change of pace for the genre. Players use the nun-chuck to steer, jump and set the character's rate of movement, while using the Wii-mote itself while in the air to spin, twist and flip the character. This system feels a little bit odd at first, but becomes easier to understand once you get the hang of it. Once you get some practice, you'll find that the system offers a great deal of control and nuance, but isn't as picky as some of the other snowboarding titles on the market. This makes the game even more enjoyable over the long run but, it can be a bit tricky getting the timing down and coordinating both controllers at first, but performing tricks becomes easier once you get the timing down. Of course, you won't always be able to land every jump perfectly and when you crash, you'll need to shake your controller to stand up again. The basic moves are simple to understand and use, making the game intuitive and enjoyable in practice. Since creating massive combos is fairly easy to do, it makes for a more accessible title that should be playable by gamers of all levels. Controlling your character feels more visceral than in previous SSX titles thanks to the Wii controller, which gives you a much greater sense of being involved with the action than a standard control scheme would. SSX Blur also uses the Wii's force feedback and speaker to further immerse you into the action. These additions might seem a bit superficial and gimmicky, but they have the effect of giving the game a refreshing change of pace from previous installments that makes SSX Blur the most exciting title the series have seen in a long time, from a gameplay standpoint.

SSX Blur's controls and gameplay mechanics are innovative and exciting, and the game's visuals and presentation help to heighten the mood while giving the game a very stylish and trendy look. Each character has a cool personality and style with unique clothes and outfits that makes them feel individual. Most of the action and objects are rendered in an appealing cartoonish anime/cel-shaded style that further adds to the game's hipness. The game's engine is also impressive since things move along at a fast speed with some nice physics work that helps to keep things a bit realistic. SSX Blur also uses a surprising number of special effects, such as light sourcing and blurring to add another dimension to the experience. These are impressive and help to add to the overall experience's intensity. The game moves along at a consistent frame rate with solidly rendered mountains and environmental effects such as blowing snow and squalls making for an exciting experience that makes you feel like you're on the mountains with your characters. While the game's definition and rendering isn't as detailed as it would be on another next-gen console, SSX Blur's alternative design plays to the Wii's strengths, not its weaknesses. Along the way, there's a solid and interesting techno soundtrack that compliments the action perfectly, though the annoying DJ's cheesy commentary will probably get on your nerves after awhile. Despite these problems, EA deserves a lot of credit for making a title that uses the Wii's processing power effectively to highlight the Wii's unique approach to gaming without compromising the depth previous SSX games have brought to the genre.

Overall, this is a fairly solid and enjoyable title that brings some refreshing changes to what is a somewhat clichéd formula at this stage. SSX Blur's control make the game feel unique and different from the previous installments, while the solid gameplay and addictive modes add plenty of depth and replay value. While the graphics aren't mind-blowing, SSX Blur's graphics engine does a solid job with detailed environments, cool special effects and a solid frame-rate. These visuals are more than up to the task and the gameplay is fast and fluid with bursts of pure enjoyment. As a gaming experience, SSX Blur definitely gets the job done with an accessible, enjoyable approach that should appeal to both seasoned players and those new to the gaming scene.

- Michael Palisano


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