SSX
Reviewed by Brandy Shaul
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2006-12-02 PS2 Racing E (Everyone) EA Sports Big

Having been forever bombarded with reviews of praise for SSX Tricky and SSX On Tour, I thought it high time to test out the original, a launch line up game from the beginning of the PS2 era. These snowboarding games have been consistently hailed as the best of all time in their genre, yet after playing the original, I found enough flaws to prove they're not perfect.

SSX plays like your basic arcade offering. There is little to no storyline: it's just you and a variety of unlockable boards, trying to make your way to the top of the snowboarding circuit. Standing in your path are opponents of various colors, shapes and sizes, which can be unlocked as playable characters along the way, to make a grand total of eight. Outfits can be unlocked too, but they are more filler material than anything else.

The eight courses come in different varieties and with varying difficulty levels, ranging from mountain gorges to city streets, yet all contain some major flaws. For one, all objects are not created equal. Some trees represent walls, while others let you fly through them as if they were invisible. Second, when in races, your opponents have the ability to knock you down if you get too close to their line, yet returning any sort of payback is a near impossible feat.

However, without doubt, the worst aspect of the game as a whole is the glaring design flaw present in every level that causes you to get stuck in front of scenery (such as walls, trees, and boulders) when you run into them. By the time you button-mash your way out of the predicament, you are already a minute or two behind your opponents and might as well start over from the beginning. While this could be considered tolerable in the Single Event races, it is downright inexcusable in tournaments when you're in the final race of three and the glitch makes you lose the event, causing you to start over at the first race.

But even with this major fault serving as the game's slap in the face, SSX does deserve a lot of praise for the overall gameplay, when everything works as it should. There's no way to describe the rush you feel as you jump off a cliff, soar through the air, and perform trick after trick while in the sky. And some of the tricks you can perform are indeed among the best aspects of the game, along with being some of the most complicated.

Each character comes with their own trick book of pictures that show you the button combinations needed to pull of some sick moves. Perform the trick in an event, and the corresponding picture lights up. If you want to quickly fill these books, there is an event for just this sort of goal: Showoff. No opponents, only a timer and the course. Perform as many tricks as you can while making your way down the mountain and receive a medal at the end if you break a certain score. Receiving the gold in any of these levels will take some work and quite a few retries, I assure you, but the variety of tricks at your disposal keep the game from entering repetitive territory.

Performing massive tricks earns you boost. Sort of like nitrous in a car racing game, this boost helps you fly down the course faster than you could on your own.

Not to be left out, there is an extensive World Circuit racing mode as well. Place in the top three in three races, the Quarterfinals, Semifinals and Finals, and you will not only earn a medal, but also points which let you tweak the stats of your character's boards. Find that you're falling behind the pack in terms of speed? Jack up your board's speed level. Can't perform as many tricks as you want? Hike up the speed in which your character does each trick and get back on the mountain to try again.

In terms of audio and visuals, SSX comes tricked out with some of the peppiest music ever heard in a snowboarding title. While the songs are a bit repetitive on longer courses, you will be so concerned with finishing the race in the top three (or screaming at the game when you fail) that the music will fade out of your mental focus.

Speaking of focus, for a title from 2000, the graphics are top notch. Where most games would display blurry backgrounds as your character moves past them at 80-90 km/hr, the graphics stay sharp, which gives you a great chance to see the course in front of you to plan your attack. The snow turns to powder in the air as you make a hard turn, and ice cracks when you crash land on a frozen river. Little touches like these, which could have been ignored, allow SSX to have more of a realistic look and feel.

When you can avoid the "I'm stuck" scenario, you will find that SSX does provide for one of the better times you can have with such a classic title. Even after initially losing race upon race, I still found myself wanting to play more, and that's not something I can say about every game. Every title has its flaws, and SSX is definitely no exception, but if you have the patience to dig past them, you'll find a pretty decent game waiting at the end of the tunnel.