Review

SSX Blur

Reviewed by Cliff Bakehorn, Posted on 2007-03-20

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Developer: EA Montreal Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: February 27, 2007 Also On: None

Electronic Arts’ Wii support has been promising. Out of the gates there were two of the publisher’s biggest 2006 titles, Madden NFL 07 and Need for Speed: Carbon, both of which utilized Wii’s unique control mechanics pretty well. The inevitable Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07 released earlier this month, as well as The Godfather: Blackhand Edition, and both of which have also been well-received critically. EA’s extreme sports label, EA Sports BIG, had been dormant until recently–EA Montreal finished up SSX Blur, a game that continues the series’ difficult but entertaining and exciting blend of snowboarding and skiing gameplay with just a few bumps and scrapes to show for it.

Before hungry Wii owners read too far into this critique, allow me to disclaim that SSX Blur is no pushover. It is a game that will absolutely test your coordination with both the Wii Remote and Nunchuck controllers on top of generally difficult challenges. Starting out, I was simply befuddled with even the simplest maneuvers, like jumping, flipping, and spinning. The game’s tutorial lasts for quite a while and does a decent job teaching you the ropes, but it truly takes a lot of practice before you’re flying down the slopes, shredding turns like cheddar.

That isn’t to say that the controls are bad, they’re just challenging. I’ll go from left to right: using the Nunchuck’s analog stick will turn your boarder slightly while actually turning the controller like a key to the left or right will send the boarder carving in that direction. Flicking the controller upward results in a jump, while using the Z button in conjunction with different tilts of the controller will make your boarder perform grab tricks. The Wii remote controls spins, flips, and the resetting of tricks. Very often you’ll find your left (or right, if you’re left-handed) thumb turned to one direction while the Nunchuck is tilted in the other, holding the Z button to do a grab while moving the Wii remote around to spin or flip. If that seemed like a workout to read, well, it’s even more difficult to do in the game. Uber tricks are unbelievably difficult to pull off, but fortunately there is a practice mode where you can practice drawing the shapes that would send your boarder into an explosion of aerial tricks. After practice, Blur is not that hard and feels a lot more satisfying than pressing buttons and watching your character do all the work.

SSX Blur offers a fun Career mode that sends you out to several different peaks and lets you have the freedom of choosing which events you choose to participate in. There are races, “slope style” runs, halfpipe competitions, and slalom challenges. In that same order is how I’d rank each event: races are definitely the heart and soul of SSX and are the most entertaining events to do while slalom events can be so frustrating that I questioned using my Nunchuck as a noose. Completing events earns you bonus points to increase your character’s statistics and unlocks new events, mountain peaks, and other unlockable bonuses.

SSX Blur is a good-looking Wii game, especially with crisp, clean 480p and 16:9 modes enabled. Levels, though lacking in the wacky design and larger-than-life set pieces of past SSX games, are still impressive in scope and offer all sorts of huge jumps, narrow passages, and tight turns. The new art style for the characters is something that long-time SSX fans might dislike but I personally thought the changes were alright and gave the game a groovy appearance. That groovy feel is something that appropriately carries over into the music; Junkie XL’s excellent tracks actually intensify or hush as you land tricks or crash on your way down the mountain, filling up or depleting the new “Groove” meter. The Groove meter is essentially just the Boost meter from past SSX games, but it goes well with the dynamic changing of the music.

Unfortunately, the controls are difficult to learn and as a result SSX Blur won’t be accessible to every gamer. SSX has always been a challenging game, and Blur is no different; alongside normal challenges and a quickly increasing amount of difficulty are the new and slightly awkward control mechanics. Still, if those mechanics can be mastered, SSX Blur is a lot of fun to play. It’s impressive both visually and aurally, and is an all-around fun package. It’s definitely the Wii’s best racing title since Excite Truck.

Graphics: 8
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 7.5
Creativity: 7.5
Replay Value/Game Length: 7.5
Final: 7.9
Written by Cliff Review Guide

Reviewed by Cliff Bakehorn

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