|The long-running and highly acclaimed snowboarding series showed up on the Wii this past March. I wish it hadn't...|
Wasn't the Wii meant to make life simpler? Games more accessible? Our favorite hobby more fun
? 10 minutes locked in a room with SSX Blur, and you'd think anything but. Snowboarding with a Wii-mote - it sounds like a match made in heaven, no? So much so, that the day it was announced, Blur spurted instantly to the top of my most anticipated games.
Dig should know better than to trust evil third party developers though.
Ice to See You!
On booting up Blur, the first thing that smacks you around the head like a drunken snowboarder colliding with a lamp post is its lack of visual splendor. The characters look alright, I guess - more exaggerated and cartoony than perhaps we're used to - while courses still bleed vertigo-tinged atmosphere like nothing else, but the Wii's lack of specs throw the whole thing off on a demented and disturbing new tangent. Jaggies, frame-rate issues, lack of detail...you name it, Blur is more than happy to deliver the "goods". SSX3 - a four year old game now - running via back compat mode on a 360, looks an entire generational leap ahead of this thing in fact. It ain't a pretty sight.
The next thing that hits you hard - like a fractured pubis on the floor of an ice rink - is how damn difficult it all is now too. As a long-time SSX vet, I couldn't for the life of me bag even a single race, nor qualify in any of the trick-based events whatsoever on my first day. Cripes.
The final thing that strikes you however - like a yellow snowball to the face - is that no matter how bleedin' hard you try - nor how many times you hit "restart" - you just can't for the life of you pull off any cool moves...at all. This in turn'll most likely lead you to the same culminative epiphany that I subsequently had. The god-awful truth about the Wii...
That third parties have absolutely no freakin' idea how to use this system
|Visually, Blur has a ton of character, but technically shows cracks|
You can name-drop your Red Steels and your Spider-Man 3s all you want, but for me, Blur is the purest example of this yet. I mean, it's a snowboarding game, right? See that Wii-mote? Almost shaped
like a snowboard, wouldn't you say? Hey, how cool would it be to wave that thing around to board down a hill? About as cool as the ice in my Magners, I'm betting. Yet sadly we'll never know.
You see, rather than go for what's coolest, or simplest - or just what makes sense - EA have crafted the single most convoluted control scheme ever
in SSX Blur. I couldn't even begin to detail its ins and outs - of which entire volumes of text could be crafted, containing individual sub-plots, characters and twists never seen coming - but highlights include your boarder jumping via "pulling" up on the nun-chuck attachment (which itself really has no business being used here anyway), to the holding of "B" while "throwing" the Wii-mote to hurl snowballs at your rivals.
Somehow you're expected to pull this sorta stuff off while simultaneously navigating black run death-slopes, contending with obstacles, and avoiding drops down sheer cliff-faces. Needless to say? Jedi reflexes are required. There's literally 30-odd pieces of the puzzle to memorize in Blur's unorthodox control scheme - so much so that calling up the options screen mid-game for reference, proves unintentionally hilarious in its brutal similarity to a submarine manual.
|SSX fundamentals remain the same. Minus the fun|
The worst part about this system is how you work the "uber tricks" though; SSX' turbo charged, death-defying mid-air stunts of awe. What was about as perfect a setup as could be in the older SSX games - a simple yet skillful combination of triggers and button combos - is long gone now, replaced here with a bizarre new "drawing" feature. While flying through the air you see, shapes now appear on-screen, and it's your job to sketch 'em out on the fly with the Wii-mote. Pull 'em off, and - quicker than you can say, "Okami" - the uber trick kicks in. For no sane reason that I can make out whatsoever.
These shapes bear no relation to the tricks themselves, you understand. They're completely random, inexplicable doodles. This blatant lack of correlation between your hand movements, and what your boarder then performs on-screen, is entirely apt mind you, in that this same principle applies to pretty much every single facet of Blur's controls right across the board. EA have essentially just assigned a series of random waves and wiggles to what we'd previously just press a button for.
News flash, Wii developers. Just cos you waggle something instead of merely pressing it, does not, more fun, make it. It actually complicates things, makes them harder to remember...and ultimately becomes bloody exhausting. Even worse, is when such movements fail to register, even though you're freakin' positive
you just pulled 'em off perfectly.
Frustration soon beckons.
You're Not Sending ME to the Cooler
|Uber tricks prove hit or miss, regardless of skill|
After a solid buncha hours play - not to mention some late-night bedtime studying of the manual later - you slowly get to grips with how it all works regardless, eventually pulling off the kinda moves and tricks you always knew you were capable of. When the game decides to recognize 'em. Yet even at its best - with the wind blowing through your hair as you waggle off a mid-air handstand on your board - you still can't help but sigh at how much better this'd all be with a pad in your hands instead. So much so that, like me, you'll probably just turn it off and chuck on SSX3.
The game's cheap, too. Not monetarily I'm afraid, but in terms of content. Many of the courses are comprised of re-dressed material from earlier games from what I can tell, albeit spruced up a little with some new track furniture. Colorful, "cutesy" decor for the kids. Ironic, this, considering that any kid who even attempts to wield this incomprehensible control scheme will most likely end up in special school, rocking in the corner of class, eating his own excrement.
Then there's the front-end. Barebones, lacking polish and badly designed, the game loses vital points for lack of presentation and ease of use...something the previous games all nailed so well.
The only aspect I find easy to praise then is the sound. The return of DJ Atomica is a surprisingly welcome one, in that while he's about as cool as your dad, he does provide a pleasing - if almost depressing - link back to the earlier games. The music is what stands out most of all though; a brand new, exclusive collection of pumping house and crazed electronic beats from Junkie XL that prove just what the doctor ordered. At the time of writing mind you, the entire soundtrack is available for free here
, thus removing any need whatsoever to actually own the game itself.
Foot shooting: complete.
Keep Watching the Skis!
|Being a European Wii owner ain't much fun right now. Shame on you, Nintendo|
The solitary aim of the Wii was always to make games simpler, more accessible...and more fun. SSX fails on all these fronts. It's brutally hard to get into, and even if you do put the man hours in and lose the hair to do so, what's waiting for you on the other side ain't particularly compelling anyway. It's yet another instance of wasted potential for Nintendo's still yet-to-prove itself new toy, and one that continues to chip away at my patience in regards to just having something new to play on it.
I had high hopes for a new SSX game, Wii or not. I enjoy hanging out in this universe so much, that a newcomer to the stable filled me with hopes, dreams and many a promise of some good old fashioned snow-covered escapism. In light of this colossal disappointment though, sights will instead have to be set towards whatever next-gen amends EA have in store for the 360/PS3 game. If such a beast doth exist.
You hear that, EA? Please. Have some such title in the works behind closed doors. Somewhere. Anywhere. Make like Sam Beckett and put right what once went wrong! SSXers deserve better.