Review: SSX Tricky (Playstation 2)

In this review, we bump up our stats in the Playstation 2 game SSX Tricky. We find out how well this snowboard racing game plays.

This game was released in 2001 and is the second game in the series.

There isn’t much of a story in this game, but there are several characters hoping to come out on top in the world circuit.

There is a small set of modes in this game. You have practice mode which allows you to get used to the controls and navigate yourself around a few courses. Single race allows players to take on a full set of opponents at a difficulty of the players choice. Showoff is also available. Finally, there is world circuit that allows players to unlock courses, characters, and boards. It is also the main mode for this game.

The world circuit allows players to play one of a couple of characters. One is more or less hidden away down the list of characters. There are small variations in the characters, so it’s hard to really go wrong with the initial set. You’ll also get all of two boards to choose from. Again, there isn’t much differentiating the two boards, so it’s all about personal preference.

After you make your selection and finish tweaking your character to your liking, you’ll get a chance to take on two different modes in the world circuit: Race and showoff.

In showoff, you need to score a certain number of points to place in the top three. Obviously, the better the medal, the better the reward. In the race itself, the course will not only feature everything available in normal race mode, but also several new red and white grind rails. If you use the D-pad, you can move your board perpendicular to the rail for better balance. After this, use the left control stick to adjust your stance on the bar. These grind rails are great for extra points.

Of course, there is also the added collectibles not otherwise found in normal race: large snowflakes. Collect a yellow snowflake and your next trick will be worth double the points. Collect an orange snowflake and your next trick will be worth 3 times the normal score. A red snowflake is worth a whopping 5 times the normal score. So, keep a lookout for those.

Of course, this game is called “Tricky” for a reason. Throughout the course, there are numerous bumps and jumps that players can use to get some air. Jump for a little added extra air to gain some altitude. While in the air, players have a pretty sizable choice over what tricks they can pull off. Use the D-Pad to rotate the player. Forwards is a front flip. Backwards is a back flip. Left is a twist to the left. Right is a twist to the right.

Simple rotations aren’t the only tricks. Players can also perform a number of board grabs as well. These are executed with the L1, L2, R1, R2 buttons. The longer a board is grabbed, the more points players can accumulate.

Now, combining these moves can yield a nice boost in points. Of course, just remember that they are generally more difficult to perform as well. Bigger risk, bigger reward.

Obviously, players need to land the trick to get the award. Wiping out will wipe out any score yo might have gotten.

If players successfully land a trick, not only do they earn a bigger score, but also get an extra amount of boost. You can use boost at any time for a little added momentum. Just remember, though, that wiping out will drain your boost as well.

Another constant is the time limit. So while it is possible to push your rider up the hills a little, you’ll always have to contend with the time limit as well. Keep an eye on it and make sure you have enough time to make it to either the next check point or finish line.

Make sure you complete your last trick before the finish line. Any trick landed after the finish line will not count. Once you cross the finish line, you are hoping for a medal at least. A medal will unlock future courses. Gold will also unlock more boards and more stat points.

After the race is over, if you medal, then you’ll be able to distribute points to four different stats. You can add to your edging, speed, stability, and trick. The better your medal, the more points you’ll get to distribute. If you medal bronze and then medal gold, you’ll only be awarded the difference.

One last note is that filling your boost meter will light up the “Tricky” icon. This icon means you are permitted to perform more complex tricks. Basically, some of the more complex board grabs are basically swapped out for some of these complex tricks. Successfully perform one of these tricks and you’ll fill a letter. Fill all six letters and you’ll be able to perform a character specific signature move. Just remember to give yourself plenty of air before attempting these moves.

The other mode is race mode. Each race has three heats for you to compete in. Medal in each race to advance to the next round. Each character in the race will be assessed a score of friendliness towards your character. If they are a friend, they may watch your back. If they are neutral, then they won’t really care either way about your well-being. what out if they are an enemy, they might be a bit aggressive towards you. The cleaner you race, the friendlier opponents will be towards you. Knock them down and they might be more inclined to nudge you off course.

Like show off mode, tricks will earn boost. Boost yourself to get an edge on the opponents. You can also perform more complex moves by filling your boost meter. Just know that the extra grind rails are no longer there.

Another thing about this mode is that there are two collectibles: trick boost and speed boost. Collect a trick boost and it’ll be generally easier to perform moves. Only good for one trick, though. Meanwhile, speed boost does exactly what it says on the tin: give you an added burst of speed for a period of time.

As you medal in courses, you can unlock new ones. As you advance, your stats will gradually improve as well. The pitfall is that your opponents will also get better and the courses will also gradually become more complex. General stat boosting can be an overall matter of survival in both show off and race modes. Generally, constantly switching back and forth between the two can be ideal because you’ll get more stats boosted while keeping the difficulty down for as long as possible.

In all, there is a total of 8 courses in world circuit mode you can compete in. There are actually 10 courses, but two of these courses, while unlockable, are only available in practice and single race modes.

To add to the replay value, players can also play as other characters and boost their respective stats. Stat bonuses do not transfer over to other characters.

For me, this game has plenty of positives. Initially, this game seems to be a natural progression from the video game 1080 (both on N64 and Playstation for those keeping track). They both have similar trick systems and both feature a race to the bottom. However, as I played further into the game, I felt it had more in common with Snowboard Kids. This is thanks to collectibles found on the course and the emphasis on tricks to gain in-race bonuses. It’s not a bad thing because that was a great game.

While the in-game features work pretty well, the feature that really helps set this game apart from others is the stat boosting system. Some games simply allow players to advance for winning the race. In this game, rewards seem to be more than just an advancement requirement. It’s also well realized because if you wind up scoring some bronze medals part way through the game, you can always go back and replay some of those earlier courses to squeeze out a few extra stat points that might make the difference between bronze and gold.

Another strength is the course designs in many of the courses. They are more than just “hill, turn, jump, hill, jump, turn, finish”. There are plenty of different obstacles and tricky paths to navigate. In addition to some complex turns, there is also the fact that there are multiple routs on most courses. It’s possible to wander off course and find an entirely different track by accident. Other times, you may even accidentally find a huge shortcut as well.

Having said that, there are a few courses that wind up being more messy and broken then complex. Some pipes are broken in that there is what appear to be a smooth surface only to see you character faceplant randomly. Other turns are so sharp, even computer opponents helplessly smack right into a wall. So, there are a few somewhat broken course sections to be found here as well.

Probably the biggest flaw is the finicky hit boxes. Generally, they revolve around grind rails, but some also revolve around ideal jump points as well. There are a few grind rails that I found myself passing clean through without the game detecting my rider has found the rail.

Other times, jumping can just be plain finicky. On some jumps, if you are just a moment too soon, you’ll not only hardly gain any air, but also barely find yourself rotating as well. This causes my character to wipe out on what should otherwise be an easy trick to pull off with the amount of air time. Other times, I can nail the jump at seemingly the right time and not only practically double the hang time, but perform far more complex moves because the biggest risk is over rotation. It’s hard to predict what to expect on jumps even if I’ve been on them.

In spite of this, there aren’t a whole lot of ways I can complain about this game. I found it to be quite enjoyable, yet challenging. The stat boosting is a great addition. Also, the stunt system works quite well. While hit boxes can be, well, hit and miss, there’s still plenty to enjoy in this game.

Graphically, this game works pretty well. For an early Playstation 2 game, the models work quite well and the scenery is impressive. Not only are the settings well realized for the most part, but also nicely varied as well. The effects are reasonable as well. So, great overall.

Meanwhile, the music works quite well. The theme song is somewhat remixed so it can punctuate certain achievements. It works well generally speaking. The music in-game also is enjoyable. Meanwhile, the voice acting works quite well from the announcer all the way down to the boarders themselves. Finally, the sound effects offer that last bit of punch that makes this game work. So, a nice effort all around.

Overall, this game works on a number of levels. It takes ideas from other great snowboarding games and integrates them nicely into an interesting mix. That added stat boosting system works very well to give this game that unique quality that is growing increasingly rare at the time. Hit boxes can be hit and miss and some courses do have their flaws, however. Graphics and audio are both great all around. So, a very solid game all around.

Furthest point in game:
Showoff: 5 silvers, 4 golds.
Race: 1 Silver, 7 golds.

General gameplay: 19/25
Replay value: 8/10
Graphics: 8/10
Audio: 4/5

Overall rating: 78%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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