Out of all the third parties to embrace the Wii, EA has been by far the most imaginative. One only needs to look at the upcoming The Godfather: Blackhand Edition to see how it’s managed to take an existing and tired concept and spice it up so that it’s interesting again. SSX Blur, however, takes an existing concept and makes it nothing short of frustrating.
There’s nothing wrong with the game, per se. For a start, it looks fantastic, with some of the better graphics that have been seen on the Wii so far. The style is also, thankfully, a return to that of SSX 3, dropping the angsty tone that SSX On Tour had. The characters and setting feel a little more like cartoons than those in SSX 3, but the general style suits the game well and everything looks fantastic. There are even a few nice touches, such as riders being covered in snow after bailing out on a trick.
The presentation of the game is also excellent. The menus themselves are slick and polished, but tracks are once again selected by riding down the mountain to specific destinations. While this might not please some people, it certainly does help the experience feel more immersive.
The music is also good – when you can hear it, but I’ll get to that. The EA Trax are gone, and it’s actually somewhat of a shame, but what has been included fits the style of the game well. DJ Atomika also makes a return, although he’s not quite as vocal or annoying this time around.
The gameplay, on paper, is also pure SSX. If you’ve played SSX 3 or SSX On Tour, you’ll know what to expect. You’ll once again choose a rider – not all of them are selectable at the beginning – and you’ll compete in a series of events, ranging from races to half-pipe competitions, in an effort to increase your standing and your attributes.
The game once again allows for players to string together ludicrous combos or tricks and spins, as well as allowing for the always-over-the-top uber-tricks. When it works, it can be some of the most fun you can have with a video game. The problem is that it doesn’t always work.
The problem here is that SSX Blur is a conventional game that has been made for an unconventional console. While it might seem that using the Wii remote and nunchuck for controlling the snowboard and various flips is a great idea, in practice it doesn’t work as well as it should.
While the basic controls work well enough, more complicated manoeuvres can be difficult, if not seemingly impossible to execute. Uber-tricks, for example, require players to draw complex patterns with the Wii remote, and when you’re plummeting towards the ground, the required accuracy just isn’t there. Even the more basic tricks become too difficult, and it’s not uncommon to find yourself just waving the remote wildly in the hope that you’ll pull off something halfway decent.
In earlier parts of the game, this isn’t such a problem. The tracks are wide and mistakes are not punished nearly as hard as they are later in the game. However, once you are required to take corners with accuracy – especially in slalom events – you will find it a blessing that the Wii remote has a wriststrap. The problem is that you never really feel like you’re in control of what’s happening on the screen.
The failure to feel in control of your characters also relates directly to how annoying the music can be. Whenever you bail on a trick, the music grinds to a halt, restarting from the beginning of the track. Imagine sitting in a room with someone who is playing a CD, only to skip back to the start of a track just when it’s starting to get good.
Now imagine them doing it over and over and over. That’s what happens in SSX Blur, simply because you’re going to find yourself slamming into the snow more than you’ll find yourself pulling off a successful trick. It’s a shame, not only because the soundtrack is pretty solid, but also because it didn’t really need to be as annoying as it is.
It’s not that SSX Blur is a bad game; it’s just a game that is on the wrong console. The entire time I was playing SSX Blur I kept thinking about how awesome this game would be if I could only play it with a Dual Shock, or even the Wii classic controller. The use of the Wii remote is nice in theory, but it doesn’t really work in execution. It’s not really EA’s fault either; it says more about the Wii as a console.
At the end of the day, if you only own a Wii and you’re desperate for some snowboarding action, then you’d do well to check out SSX Blur. If you can get past the controls, and if you have a lot of patience, the chances are that you’ll find a lot to like here. For everyone else, however, you are probably better off waiting for a more conventional SSX to appear on the Xbox 360 and PLAYSTATION 3.