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SSX Tricky

EA Canada

EA Sports BIG


1 - 2


Does the wildly successful PS2 launch title really deserve a sequel, or is it folly to mess with a good thing?

SSX was one of the most successful games of the PS2 launch a year ago. This was in large part not only due to the fact that it is a great game, but also that is benefited from proper timing. The N64 was pretty much dead at the time, and the Dreamcast had failed to get the marketshare it deserved, leaving the PS2 to coast into the top spot of the sales charts. SSX was the debut title in the EA Sports Big lineup, a brand that continues to provide some over the top gameplay.

"Now, from the initial immersion, players know that they are in for anything but a static gaming experience."

Looking to capitalize on the success of the original, SSX Tricky is released, but under much different circumstances. The PS2 isn't the only game in town, and the game now shares a much more crowded shelf that strains under the weight of other AAA titles. Nintendo's new GameCube and Microsoft's Xbox also have their own stellar titles begging to be purchased. Rather than standing far out from the crowd like its predecessor, SSX Tricky is now just another eagerly anticipated title on a long list of games that deserve attention. While this may sound like SSX Tricky is just another game, things couldn't be further from the truth.

SSX Tricky takes what everybody loved about the original, and as Emeril would say, kicks it up a notch. The first thing that is noticeably different in this version is the interface. Nearly everything is 3D, with the player selection being in an underground cave on a "boarder rotisserie" if you will. Each player's personality has been fleshed out, and you get a taste of that from the start. During boarder selection, each person will say something to entice you to pick him or her. After selecting your boarder, you are taken to the course select area, again appearing to be in an underground cavern, with a rather cool interface.

While this may not be a big deal, it does let you know that things have changed. Sure, SSX was over the top, but a lot of the game was fairly standard in terms of gameplay and character interaction. Now, from the initial immersion, players know that they are in for anything but a static gaming experience.

The major modes of play will be found in the single player game. Sure there is a two player option, with the Race, Showoff and a Time Challenge, but really, single player is where this game is at. For those uninitiated into the SSX experience (don't be ashamed, help is on the way) the Showoff mode is where you get to shine like a star and get your "Evil Kenevil" on. The whole idea of this mode is to get medals corresponding to certain point totals. More tricks = more points. Race, well, if you don't understand that, then go play Monopoly. Time Challenge is just that - get to the finish line as quickly as possible.

"SSX Tricky sets a new standard in content, and hopefully, more games will be presented like this in the future."

Only Race and Showoff are part of the World Circuit, with Freeride being available in the practice session. Overall, the game will be played in the single player mode attempting to get medals in both race and showoff to bump up your characters standings (starting at Newbie, rising up to Star, Veteran, and beyond) and stats. Some may say that there aren't enough modes, but frankly, you'll be so busy playing what there is, you won't notice anything missing.

There are so many changes and additions made to SSX Tricky, that it's hard to single out what is the most important. Perhaps the first thing people will notice is the new tracks at the beginning and end of the World Circuit and the layout changes throughout the rest of the courses. Girabaldi is the first track that players get to ride, and it's rather easy to get through, allowing players to get used to the new trick system. Playing through SSX Tricky's new first course is really nothing more than a teaser for what is to follow.

Besides being optimized for the Xbox controller layout, the whole trick system has been streamlined. There are fewer tricks requiring multiple (and sometimes confusing) button sequences. There is even a tutorial within the trick book to help you learn how to execute the moves. The tutorial system works much better in SSX Tricky than in the previous game, this helps get players acclimated to the various tricks, when executed properly, help win races and rack up point totals in the showoff events.

The trick system, besides being streamlined has undergone another change in the addition of Uber Tricks. When the adrenaline meter is full (either by performing enough stunts or knocking somebody down), for approximately 20 seconds your character is "in the zone" and can pull of some rather amazing stunts like jumping off the board and having it spin and flip underneath you, or doing a handstand on your board. After pulling off 6 of the Uber Tricks (one for each letter in TRICKY) Your character's adrenaline meter is full, and you can stay "in the zone" until you reach the finish line. There is no time limit to pull of the outrageous stunts. This is going to help, especially in the showoff events, where the Uber Tricks will net you more points. Get enough big air, link a couple of Uber Tricks, and the gold is yours. Sure, you can play with the normal selection of basic tricks, but why?

One more aspect of the adrenaline meter is its fluctuation. When landing a stunt, the meter goes up (naturally) and the meter goes down every time you eat some snow. If you are "in the zone" (but before you complete 6 Uber Tricks) you can get out of the zone just as quickly by messing up your trick. The adrenaline meter is much more volatile this time, some strategy may be in order.

While knocking people down will automatically fill up your meter, it's not a good idea to go around willy nilly backhanding each of the other riders. Certain riders are friendly towards you, and other downright hostile. This will have to be monitored to see who is likely to either attempt a knockdown on your ass, or watch your back if somebody tries to ump you. Keep knocking everybody down, and eventually everybody is going to hate you, and you don't be able to get out of the starting gate without getting your head buried under the snow.


There are some very outrageous characters in SSX Tricky. Besides amping up the tricks, the characters have been fleshed out. By now, you will have heard about the "big Hollywood names" that have lent their voices to the characters. The results are better than expected. Some characters, such as Oliver Platt's Luther and David Arquette's Eddie come off as so outrageous you swear that you knew them in high school. Others, like Macy Gray's Seeiah and Billy Zane's Brodi appear more "human". The voice acting is impeccable, with more trash talk and side comments than before. Sometimes you want to get some big air and perform an amazing stunt just to hear what somebody will say.

After landing a gold medal in either the race or showoff events, you are awarded points to bump up your character's stats. Instead of some perfunctory increases. SSX Tricky actually appears to use the stats. If a person doesn't have great speed but can trick like a (deleted), then take that person to the showoff world circuit and get some medals there. You can bump up that person's speed stats, and then take on the rest of the riders in style. The higher the medal, the more stat points you are awarded.

"Sure, you can play with the normal selection of basic tricks, but why?"

The usual unlocking is necessary in SSX Tricky. Boards, outfits, characters and courses will all appear to you for jumping through certain hoops (such as earning medals or completing a set number of tricks).

One of the major selling points of SSX Tricky, aside from the new trick system and characterization, is the redesigned courses. The courses have been redesigned, some to a greater extent than others. Pipedream, for example, is unrecognizable. It's much shorter and more open than before. Tokyo Megaplex lost the "pinball" feel of the original, but now appears to be the brainchild of Dali if he had grown up watching Japanese anime (this is a good thing). Merqury City is almost the same (almost - the beginning is rather changed) and Elysian Alps is nearly identical to its predecessor.

Each of the courses has been changed to a certain degree, and it is here is where we come across the only downfall in SSX Tricky. It would appear that some of the changes were made to make it easier to go through. The wooden bridge in Mesablanca is much wider (nearly twice) than the original. The bumpers in Tokyo Megaplex are almost always down, rather than being unpredictable in their position. Sure the gameplay in the original was tough, but that was part of the enjoyment, you really felt a sense of accomplishment when you finally won the gold medal racing in Merqury City. Now, it doesn't take as many attempts. This isn't to say that the game isn't enjoyable, but for somebody that has played the original, it's a noticeable change. It appears as if the developers were trying to make the game more accessible to the "average" player.

Visually, the game is colorful, with clothes being vibrant and the environments having some nice variations to them. There is virtually no draw-in, the picture is sharp from horizon to board. There is some minor clipping now and again, but overall, this is is one nice looking game. Unfortunately, screens just won't do the game justice. There are improvements that could have been made (such as with the crowds) but these are really minor annoyances.

The audio in the game is stellar. While the voice acting is top notch, other sound effects and music are equally great. While you don't get to use your own songs from the Xbox's harddrive, the tunes that are included in the game are appropriate. There are plenty of options for you to choose from, song selection, volume, overall sfx/song/vocal mix, controller configuration, and more. Controlling the boarder my feel unwieldy at first, this has more to do with the size of the Xbox controller rather than the button layout. Get a smaller 3rd party controller, and go to town.

There is more than just the game here though. The startup screen allows you to either play the game, or check out the DVD content. The medium allows for more than just the game, and the developers have taken advantage of this. There is an extensive list of extra features, which will take a long while to go through. There is a feature on making the game, on the courses, on the Voice talent, each voice actor gets their own in-depth look, and the list goes on. SSX Tricky sets a new standard in content, and hopefully, more games will be presented like this in the future.

With the fleshed out characters, there is more incentive to play through everybody. With the additional gameplay tweaks to the trick system as well as the courses, this will be a game played long after you "complete" it. SSX Tricky is indeed one of the rare games where the sequel more than matches the fun and depth of the original. Understandably, the development team is taking some time off from the next installment, but when the series returns, it's going to be hard to top this.

Daniel "monk" Pelfrey
"French toast and syruuuuuup!!"

SSX Tricky: The Scores













The Final Word:  SSX Tricky is almost a completely new game. The new emphasis on tricks this go 'round changes the game dramatically, creating something that will be played for a long time to come. It lacks the initial "grab" that the original had, but after a couple of courses, you're hooked on this new drug, and you won't want to stop.

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