Try your hand at snowboarding: No snow required
December 1, 1998
By CNN Interactive Associate Editor John Robinson
(CNN) -- Two new snowboarding games for the Sony Playstation challenge you to hone your virtual snowboarding skills and compete against the pros. "Cool Boarders 3" from Sony's 989 Studios and "X Games Pro Boarder" from EA Sports have the same basic idea for a snowboarding game but present that idea in very different ways.
"Cool Boarders 3" is a relatively easy game to learn and you can jump right in and have fun sliding down the mountain without many problems. You begin by choosing from six events: Downhill, Boarder X, Slalom, Half Pipe, Slope Style and Big Air. You also have the choice of 13 fictional male and female snowboarders and many different boards from popular manufacturers. Snowboard types available are Freeride, Freestyle and Alpine. You can compete in a single event or enter a tournament or just practice your skills in any of the events without any other riders to get in the way. Winning a tournament opens up more courses and better boards to use.
The courses and events look great although you are confined to a sometimes narrow boundary marked by orange netting. Weather effects are random so you may find yourself boarding on a clear blue day or in a snowstorm with little visibility. The snow looks realistic enough and the courses are well groomed with some icy spots that make turning a challenge. The snowboarders are well designed and look a little cartoon-like.
One general concern is that you have to hold a button down to get your boarder to carve hard, something that you need to do frequently in the Slalom and Boarder X events. Even though the game is analog compatible, it doesn't use the analog controller to decide how hard the boarder turns, it instead uses a two button operation designed for digital controllers.
A feature that scores big points in the coolness department is that the controller rumbles ever so slightly when you hold a turn for more than a second or two. That is provided you are using a Dual Shock controller which is recommended to get the full experience out of this game.
Tricks are a big part of any snowboarding game and "Cool Boarders 3" has many to choose from. You start out doing simple grabs and progress on to flips and spins. The tricks can be a little difficult to master but are well worth the effort because the character animations look so good.
Be the pro
"X Games Pro Boarder" takes a more realistic approach to snowboarding and begins by letting you choose from eight snowboard pros like Todd Richards and Tina Basich. Snowboards available are Freeride, Freestyle, Pipe. As in Cool Boarders, Real snowboard manufacturers like Burton, Salomon and Ride are represented.
You start with five levels, Half Pipe, Midnight Express, Stadium, Slopestyle and Mt. Baker Gap. Once you have won all these events, a circuit mode is enabled and you can compete on different courses. If you fail to win at least 3 gold medals in a circuit, you are given the boot. Winning in circuit mode will open more courses for you to try in one player mode.
Mt. Baker Gap is a particularly cool level because it is basically just a jumping contest held out in the woods that transcends the atmosphere of competition that surrounds the usual big air event.
The courses are pretty good and offer a little more freedom than "Cool Boarders 3" in that you can freeride a lot more. Make no mistake, there are still boundaries but it just feels like you have more options on where to go. The snowboarders are modeled after their real-life counterparts and consequently have a semi-realistic proportion and look.
Controlling the snowboarder down the mountain is a little jumpy at first but relatively easy to pick up and seems to flow once you get used to it. Where "X Games Pro Boarder"s really shines is when it comes to doing tricks. Tricks are made easy because a simple control scheme is used for beginners. As you progress, a more difficult control scheme is introduced that gives you more input on how each trick is performed. "X Games Pro Boarder" does support the Dual Shock analog controller even thought the vibration feature is used sparingly and seems like an afterthought.
Two peas in a pod?
Snowboarding games are bound to have a lot in common and that is definitely true when it comes to these two titles. Where "Cool Boarders 3" is a little more fun racing down the mountain, "X Games Pro Boarder" is a little more fun while doing the big tricks and halfpipe.
As you would expect, the music in both games features alternative rock themes. "Cool Boarders 3" uses a bass and guitar driven original soundtrack while "X Games Pro Boarder" uses popular bands like Rancid, Foo Fighters and NoFX to handle the tunes throughout the game.
Night boarding is available on at least one level in both games and is with out doubt one of the coolest aspects overall. The lighting effects are spectacular at night and give you that eerie feeling you get when you're not quite sure what is up ahead.
Although both games have a lot to offer, "Cool Boarders 3" has a slight edge because of more fluid control, tighter graphics and better sound effects. That doesn't mean that "X Games Pro Boarder" is a slouch by any means. It offers a more realistic approach and easier tricks that some people will enjoy more in spite of the slightly less polished look of the game. True snowboarding enthusiasts will definitely want to give both games a shot.
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