SSX On Tour
Once you get past the awful musical accompaniments and the tedious, fourteen-year-old middle class child lingo of "skater boys"- the type Avril Lavigne would be proud to endorse - you discover that SSX On Tour is one of the better examples of the genre out there. You get to design your own character or "racer" and send your graphically enhanced alter ego hurtling down mountains and along precisely placed metal railings covered with a hint of snow. You can ski or snowboard through time trials, new challenges, classic races and death defying stunt routines. A two-player option is available so you can play along with your friends. This game isn't for those with hearts that murmur or those who are prone to bouts of vertigo. When you jump off the side of a mountain, you feel the air above and beneath you and, when you come crashing back down to earth with a bump, you also feel every limb crack as you frantically press the buttons on your control pad in an effort to rouse your creation from their injury induced slumber.
Hurtling down the 12 new tracks at night is a "seat of your pants" experience and the "tour" level is ingenious as it allows you to progress in the game as if you were learning skiing and snowboarding for real. You get better and faster as your skills develop and it is satisfying when, finally, you break the mould and come home first. There is one bizarre moment in one of the race circuits where you appear to be gliding across a cafe's roof. Not sure what the owner of the business thinks of your outfit, your hairstyle or your skill with the board but such an inclusion as the cafe does make the race courses that much more realistic.
Choosing your level on the basis of a map you have never seen before does make the game confusing to begin with and the casual player will certainly struggle when thrown in at the deep end instead of being slowly introduced to the fine arts of achievements possible on skis and on the snowboard. Even more frustrating is the fact that it is possible to play the same level twice without realising it as the game refuses to save your progress properly and mark out the courses you have completed.
In the "Customise Your Character" mode, you can just about hear the shrieks of some slightly camp fashion expert depicting every single one of your choices for your character's attire, facial features and physical build as: "just fabulous!" Putting yourself into a game is always fun and, let's face it, that's what you're doing here. You're either sketching an enemy into the game so you can miss time a jump on purpose and break his legs or you're putting yourself in the game so you can fully appreciate the glory and applause of victory. But do you really need to be given the power to determine what type of scarf your player wears?
With the exception of the teenage daughter fashion club atmosphere and those few, minor quibbles, this game is a must for those who ski and snowboard on a regular basis and for those who love the thrill of down-hill adventure. The game is easy to play but difficult to master and you will really enjoy mastering the controls, performing the stunts and beating the competition. It would have been nice if staying on a slippery metal pole without falling off was rewarded via points like in the Tony Hawk games but I guess you can't have everything. Enjoy the delights of this delicious winter warmer now.
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