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In Memory
Sean Pettibone


 

 

   

        

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is this a sequel or an upgrade? Thatís the question surrounding SSX Tricky. As the premiere EA Sports Big title available at the Gamecube launch, there are several new elements, including new tracks and characters that build on the first gameís solid foundation. Itís addictive as anything and extremely exciting. However, is this fact alone enough to justify a full-price purchase of a new game or is it a rehash of more of the same? The Laser takes a closer look to find out the scoop on this action-packed snowboarding title.

 

While last yearís SSX was excellent, there were still some rough edges that needed some smoothing-out. Almost exactly a year later and right on schedule, the follow-up has arrived for several platforms, including Nintendoís shiny new console, the GameCube. Building EAís successful extreme snowboarding franchise, SSX Tricky delivers an addictive and challenging gaming experience that enhances the feel of the first game with new elements including better course designs, a deeper tricks system and several new characters. SSX Tricky isnít an entirely new game - itís more an enhancement on the original game than a true sequel. While SSX Tricky feels almost too-similar to the first game but is decidedly different thanks to some elements that have been implemented. These new features add much to the experience and make for a much more entertaining title overall but are they enough on their own to justify this release on its own merits?

As you begin and go to the options screen, youíll see that there are several different gaming modes available. These are quite varied, including single races and a more elaborate career mode. The single races allow you to get a feel for each course and practice your tricks. The real thrill of SSX Tricky comes in its career mode. Here you must place third in three successive races to unlock a new course which is harder than it sounds and takes quite a long time to complete. The creative and elaborate course designs go a long way towards adding a lot of depth to the title, and making it exponentially more replayable than it could have been. Adding to SSXTís appeal, thereís also a split-screen 2-player mode which should fuel those competitive fires. While the game remains largely the same, itís more difficult. In this yearís model, winning is harder because the opponents are more aggressive. While thereís a good selection of characters available at the start of the game, more can be unlocked by completing tricks from your playbook. Some of the new characters include the sexy Elena and the usual Ďguy with an afro.í Most of the others are returning from the last game so thereís enough new and familiar here to keep most fans of the series happy as a clam.

As you would expect, EAís Big label hasnít messed with success. So itís a no-brainer that the solid, exciting play of the original has remains intact but is now even deeper with new character tricks. The tricks are much wilder and more elaborate this time around and can now also be seen in cool replays as well. The speed-boost meter is back, though now itís been enhanced and renamed the Ďtrickyí bar. Keeping your eyes on the bar is crucial because when this reaches the top, players can now perform one of 4 new super moves per character which gives the player a massive amount of new points. Another new element in this edition is the fighting, where you can shove opposing racers on the slopes. If you succeed at knocking one down, it also has the added effect of rolling up the Tricky meter right to the top. This also has another quite significant effect on the game since the characters are now listed in friend, foe or neutral. This has a big impact on how aggressive theyíll be when they come in contact with your characters on the slopes. Friends wonít challenge you while the foes will do everything in their power to sabotage your progress. Another cool new element are the elaborate cinema sequences between races showing character interaction and getting some plot to the game, though not much. This adds a new level to SSX Tricky and makes for some deeper gameplay that enhances the overall atmosphere but not at the expense of the addictive gameplay which remains at the core of its appeal.

What really sets this game apart from the pack is that it is not the typical generic snowboarding title. Eschewing the realism of other snowboarding titles for a more dynamic, freer style of play SSX Tricky features massive unrealistic jumps, special hidden areas and even the occasional moving obstacle. There are also fireworks on the slopes, so you can see, this isnít painstakingly accurate simulation. As you jump, spin and roar over the slopes, itís immediately apparent that the physics arenít entirely realistic which is fine. However, the most impressive thing about the style of gameplay there is still enough grounding in reality to make the gameís more elaborate stunts feel just a tad out of reach, which makes the world consistent and also quite exciting. What really sets SSX Tricky apart from the pack is the depth of its gameplay. The courses themselves are longer than most other snowboarding titles, taking several minutes each to complete and makes the game an endurance match where stamina matters. This time out, the tracks seem a little less flashy than last time out but this is balanced by the increased variety and creativity of the layouts. The courses are designed intelligently with more leeway given. This means that a few small mistakes or even a major crash during the run wonít automatically cost you the race, which makes things a bit more enjoyable. During each run, there are huge jumps over massive ramps and while youíre airborne, you can make some really cool tricks. The trick system is elaborate allowing for several types of grips, spins and turns. Chaining several of these together is the key to big scores and more. Performing tricks and keeping up with the race isnít the easiest thing to master, so itís best to concentrate on one or the other for each run until you become more proficient.

SSX Tricky performs well thanks to the excellent, responsive controls which give you an excellent amount of responsiveness in movement and allows you to pull off some pretty spectacular tricks with ease. Navigating the turns, jumps and tricky portions of the game is a joy. While it looks strange in pictures, in practice the GameCubeís analog controller performs well and the different sized buttons, far from being a distraction, make the different moves more obvious. SSX Tricky controls smoothly with the Gamecube controller with tight, responsive commands that compliment the extremely intuitive tricks system. The graphics are excellent with a lot of polish and some creativity. The courses look spectacular and that cool blurring effect when you press the turbo button is back. Character animation and movement is again smooth, with slightly better detail this time. It takes good advantage of the Cubeís processing power with little in the way of slowdown or pop-in though you know there could have been more done here. In addition, the music is very good, we especially liked the RUN-DMC samples and the voice acting which adds plenty of character to the racers during and after each round. SSX Trickyís above-average production values and a solid engine make for an extremely impressive experience all around.

Unfortunately, while itís a generally solid game, SSX Tricky falls short in some key areas. As mentioned earlier, itís not a true sequel. While the two new characters add flavor to the proceedings, they alone arenít a big enough addition to make for a truly fresh cast Ė this is extremely disappointing. Another big problem is that there are only 2 new tracks offered. While these are challenging and visually spectacular, they really arenít enough on their own to really make for a unique experience in their own right. This is mitigated because the returning courses have been redesigned and feel a bit different from the originals. It mostly depends on your point of view, the main changes are the new super-tricks, the fighting system and improved graphics Ė but these are significant enough to make the game feel substantially different. These complaints donít matter if you missed the first SSX. If you did, this is a must buy launch title for GameCube Ė and a solid addition to any library. SSX Tricky is just as addictive as ever and the new elements make the gameplay even more exciting. While its stingy with new elements, SSX Tricky is a solid upgrade that extends the ideas in the original to a new level. Along with Tony Hawk 3, this is a solid entry in the action-sports genre and that makes it the most addictive snowboarding title available for the GameCube.