As a man who loved himself some Cool Boarders on the PlayStation, it was only natural that I’d gravitate towards a game like SSX Tricky once the sixth generation came around. The funny thing is that despite my love of games like SSX, AirBlade and Tony Hawk, I’m not an especially big fan of extreme sports in general.
If I ever went to the slopes of Switzerland or Colorado, I’d be much more inclined to put my feet up in a wooden lodge with a hot chocolate on the go than I ever would be to brave icy mountain sides on a thin slab of fibreglass. I struggle to think of many things less appealing, if I’m brutally honest.
Physical exertion is, at best, a necessary evil in my life that distracts from more important things, such as downing alcoholic beverages and stuffing my gob with the sort of food that even a billy goat might choke on. Freezing my tuchus off on the side of a big snowy hill, whilst struggling to remain upright on a treacherous snowboard, doesn’t really capture my imagination.
However, stick me in my living room and give me the opportunity to watch a bunch of freaks do it in a video game, and I’m sold, sister! Not soon after acquiring my PS2 during Christmas 2001, I found myself wanting to make the most of my new machine but without the funds to appropriately do so. Thus, it was onward to the video store to see what games I could rent out for a few days’ worth of borrowed thrills, a notion that seems incredibly dated today now that Blockbuster has all but disappeared from the high street.
I’d read about SSX Tricky in the gaming mags of the day, so when I saw it on the video store shelf, I was instinctively drawn to giving it a rental. At the time, I didn’t know that the game was actually a sequel to a previous game entitled just SSX. Both games were released as part of Electronic Arts’s sub division “EA Sports BIG”.
BIG was the label EA used to release most of its extreme sports and more casual sports game catalogue. Games from BIG tended to be far wackier and over the top when compared to the more serious simulation games from EA Sports proper. SSX Tricky is no different, with a vibrant and colourful collection of weirdos performing ludicrous tricks on towering snow slopes.
Gameplay is fast, furious and pretty easy to pick up. You move your boarder around with the D-pad or analogue stick, and if you push forward, they’ll move slightly quicker. Each course will have its fair share of big drops that you’ll be able to leap off of and perform different tricks by using the shoulder buttons, as well as the face buttons.
By performing tricks and successfully landing them, you’ll be able to build up your adrenaline bar, which you can then use to give your boarder that extra shot of pace by pressing Square or X (depending on which console you play the game on. I originally played it on the PS2, but when I went back to it this time, I was playing on the Xbox). Fill the bar all the way to the top and you will be able to perform crazy looking “Uber” moves for a brief period of time, which range for the wildly spectacular to the utterly insane.
A lot of the courses have secret paths and routes tucked away, which gives them replay value as you try and locate the shortcuts that will allow you to shave precious seconds off your time. As you progress in the game, you’ll face tougher and tougher tracks, some which even contain traps to trip you up. Thankfully, the computer-controlled racers often prove just as prone to falling afoul of these as you are, which at least gives you a fighting chance in the race should you end up on the wrong side of one.
You race against 5 other boarders, some of which will be friendly and some of which will be anything but, depending on what character you select. Often at the start of races, a quick cutscene will play where you’ll either trade barbs with one of your rivals or send positive vibes to one of your buddies. If you clash with that rival during the race, you’ll be treated to another cutscene at the race’s conclusion where you continue your spat. It adds a fun layer to the game as enemy racers will go out of their way to mess things up for you, meaning you’ll have to stay on your toes when you see them at the starting block.
All of the boarders are dripping with character, and an impressive voice cast including the likes of Lucy Liu and Billy Zane really give these bizarre creations life. My personal favourite is the ultra-cute Kaori, whose cheerful demeanour hides the heart of a champion. I must say though it is fun seeing giant mulletted redneck Luthor ride his board like a bucking bronco.
The main critique you could throw the game’s way is that it’s lacking slightly when it comes to modes on offer, but it’s still a lot of fun to play, and there’s always the possibility of completing the main single-player campaign with every character on offer. There are also plenty of unlockable boards and outfits to make you want to come back and keep playing, as well as a two-person multiplayer mode. I can only imagine how fun this game would be if it had an online mode and you could do 6 player races.
Overall, I’d recommend SSX Tricky. It can be frustrating at times on the harder courses, but it’s a colourful and enjoyable romp that is also immensely playable.
Thanks for reading
Until next time;