SSX Blur

March 16, 2007

SSX Blur is not your father’s SSX. Heck, it might not even be your SSX. First launched as a flagship title for the PlayStation 2 in 2000, the extreme snowboarding game has gone on to inspire a handful of sequels across multiple consoles and handhelds, but none have represented such a dramatic departure as what has been delivered in SSX Blur.

Just on the merit of its unconventional design, the Wii demands reinvention, especially when it comes to existing IP, and this alone can draw a rather bold line between those players who are open to change, radical as it may be, and those who genuinely find the whole idea a bit unsettling. With regards to Blur, developers EA Montreal have thrown caution to the proverbial wind and designed a game that adopts a completely new, more cartoonish, visual style and embraced the Wii’s motion sensitive remote and nunchuck attachment with open arms. The result, while very fun, does take a good deal of warming up to and seems destined to be misunderstood by players and media alike.

To begin with, the game’s controls, which demand a flurry of constant wrist pivots and remote twirls, can bring you to the edge of carpel tunnel like no other game on the Wii to date. In addition, while SSX Blur does sport a vast catalog of different motion sensitive maneuvers, the game’s frantic nature can at times make the whole experience feel very arbitrary, leaving you to flail both hands in a nondescript fashion while the on screen character translates the nonsense into aerial acrobatics or collision with a tree.

This is not a game about finesse, but still the series’ penchant for trying to pull off just one more trick before bailing into a face plant with the ice and snow remains.

Essentially, the nunchuck is used for the lion’s share of activities, with the analog stick used for turning while tilting the nunchuck left or right will allow for a much tighter turn, an essential skill to master for those hectic slalom courses. While airborne, the tilting takes on a different role, as it in conjunction with the Z button initiates one of four different types of grabs depending on the direction being pulled. On top of this, the Wii remote itself it used to perform the game’s numerous death defying tricks, with different directional midair swipes being translated into on-screen heroics.

While this takes a bit of getting used to, after it is all said and done the above mechanics work pretty well and offer a great deal of fun in the classic SSX tradition. Where this begins to break down a bit is in the case of the so-called ‘Ubertricks,’ this game’s take on the series’ high powered maneuvers that can only be actioned when a character is doing particularly well. In the case of SSX Blur, these tricks, more of which can be earned over the course of the game, demand you trace various shapes in the air with the remote or, in the case of particularly complicated maneuvers, both the Wii remote and the nunchuck. While occasionally these can be pulled off without a hitch, more times than not attempting these tricks simply turns in a battle of attrition ultimately resulting in annoyance and frustration.

Set upon three different mountain peaks, SSX Blur offers numerous events, from races to extreme sporting trials demanding a mastery of pulling off tricks for points. And when this gets tiresome, the game also offers a multiplayer mode for two players to take to the slopes via split screen with any of the characters and boards (or skis) that have been unlocked. It’s a shame that more wasn’t done with this mode, however, as it’s pretty bare bones. As it is, however, competing against a friend as you both shake your controls around in the air is an entertaining spectacle.

In addition, with a presentation that could easily be considered flat in contrast to the altogether obnoxious SSX On Tour, it would be easy to call out the series’ latest entry as yet another example of the Wii’s ineptitude to wow players on the hunt for eye candy. However, while standing still the game does offer little to turn aside such comments, in motion its merit is much more evident. It does look unquestionably different from previous SSX releases, but that does not diminish the game’s artistic flair. The developers have even managed to include an SSX radio DJ that isn’t terribly annoying, something that has not especially been a calling card of the series up until now.

While not nearly as over the top as SSX 3 and arguably not as pure as SSX Tricky, Blur’s fresh take on the franchise is a welcome treat. The controls take more than a little getting used to and do seem a bit arbitrary at times, but that does little to take away from the sheer fun of grinding through a half pipe, getting crazy air, and defying death for just one more flip before hitting the snow. Spread across three different peaks, each sporting multiple events and a host of unlockable content, SSX Blur is sure to inspire more than a few return visits. Add to this a multiplayer that, while perhaps lacking in flair, is still more than serviceable, and EA’s latest trip down the snowy mountain might just be the best third party title on the Wii to date.

Score: 5/5

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