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SSX Tricky

Score: 90%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: EA Sports
Developer: EA Games
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Racing/ Miscellaneous

Graphics & Sound:

SSX Tricky is a very nice looking game, but sometimes that graphical sharpness comes at the cost of framerate. The XBox version of the game seems to be even sharper-looking than the PS2 and GameCube releases, with fantastically textured snow and sharp textures. The characters are well-articulated, with a sense of real 'weight' to them--the way they catch their balance, the way they thump along the ground, it all seems rather realistic, if a bit more on the 'cartoony' side. And the first time you see an Uber Trick, with someone riding their board like a bucking bronco or doing all sorts of other craziness, you'll know the game looks sharp. The framerate does bog down occasionally, especially on busy courses with lots of people ahead of you, but it's nothing like the slowdown of the original game on the PS2. Combined with a nice interface, SSX Tricky definitely looks very sharp.

It also sounds excellent. The music is a mix of thumping beats and groovy guitar, and it works admirably; you can even listen to the music separately if you so choose. And, of course, there's Run DMC's 'Tricky' to occupy you every time you get to that level in the game. Woot. Add to that professional voice talent for the various characters--watch some of the DVD content to see some of them, you'll find them emininely recognizable--and solid sound effects, and you have an excellent aureal presentation. Even the blowhard announcer Rahzell, who can be grating after extended play periods, is a pretty cool character.


Gameplay:

SSX Tricky is a solid update to the original SSX, and it's being released on all of the next-gen systems, unlike the PS2-only original. For those of you with multiple next-gen consoles, that brings up the question of which to buy. Having only played the XBox version extensively (although I've spent some time with the PS2 incarnation), I can definitely say that the XBox version is very solid. With new tracks, new tricks, more stuff to unlock than most RPGs, and a two-player mode, it's hard to go wrong with SSX Tricky.

For the few folks who have never heard of the SSX series, a little introduction is in order. The original SSX was basically the killer app at the PS2's release; while most of the launch titles weren't particularly impressive, SSX took the cake as an over-the-top snowboarding title, with crazy characters and even crazier tricks. Now we have SSX Tricky, an overhaul of the original that offers a lot more of the same and enough new stuff to keep you interested.

Most of the courses in SSX Tricky are reduxes from the original. Don't let that fool you into thinking that they're identical, though; enough things have been tweaked in them to make a thorough re-exploration necessary, as the trademark SSX shortcuts are in different places and require even more precise jumps to land. In addition, there are a couple of new tracks, good to mix up the action and keep it interesting.

Along with new tracks, there are a number of new players. You start with three playable characters, and as you progress in the game you open up new ones to race with. Every character has their own stats and trick book, and as you play with them you open up more and more tracks, characters, and tricks. There's even equipment that they can use, from different boards to groovy outfits. Since every character has a ton of unlockable stuff, and tracks and the like are only unlockable as you progress with the various characters, the completist gamer will find many, many hours of playtime with this game.

The actual races are just as fervet as ever. The jumps are big, the tricks are awesome, and you can knock down your opponents to get an edge and even get the coveted Tricky light blinking. Once you have that, you have a handful of seconds to catch some major air and pull off an Uber Trick, which scores an insane number of points and looks crazy to boot. Each character has a number of Uber Tricks that they can perform, keeping it interesting, along with the tons of other moves that they can do.

If the racing doesn't interest you, you can do Showoff mode, which is basically geared around getting as many points as possible. The World Circuit is where you unlock most of the stuff, but you can also do Single Races to get the hang of the courses, or Practics by your lonesome to go find the many shortcuts. If all of this tires you, you can always participate in two-player action; the best part is that it's not just two people on the course, as the rest of the racers are still there with you.


Difficulty:

Even newbies to the game will be able to pick it up and tear their way through Garibaldi, the first course (and one of the new ones). Things start to get tougher on Snowdream, especially if you're playing the World Circuit, and they just get tougher from there. Sometimes it feels like the AI's being a little cheap, but perseverence and a little luck will always get you through. You can even befriend some of the racers (or make enemies), which can help or hinder you in the different races. Needless to say, those folks who don't want to mix it up too badly can simply chill on the simpler courses, while those who like the thrill of difficult racing can move on to the more difficult ones.

Game Mechanics:

SSX Tricky makes use of just about every button on the XBox controller. Thankfully, there's a trick tutorial mode which shows you how to pull of the different tricks; this is pretty much a necessity, especially if you want to unlock the different outfits in the game. Control is simple and tight, with the left analog stick steering your character and the right stick being used to knock other people around. I never encountered any major glitches, although sometimes grinding can act a little odd. Considering how difficult it was to grind in the original game, the simpler mechanics in SSX Tricky are worth it. Load times are longish but not unbearably so, and the menus are easy to navigate.

With so many versions of this game around, SSX Tricky has a lot to live up to if it wants to be commercially viable. Fortunately, the game is a blast. The XBox version proffers fast racing, gorgeous graphics and a great sense of style. Add in the DVD extras and enough gameplay to last many weekends, and you have a definite winner on your hands. If you want a game to pick up and play any time, to show off to your friends and to have a blast with, SSX Tricky is a solid choice.


-Sunfall to-Ennien, GameVortex Communications
AKA Phil Bordelon

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