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A.P.I Review: Big Air
Developer: Pitbull Syndicate OPTIONS: S.SHOT
SCREENSHOTS:
No.1   No.2   No.3
Distributor: Accolade/EA 1-2 Player
Game Type: Snowboarding Memory Card
Review Date: May 1999 Dual Shock

Setting the Scene

Snowboarding nirvana has supposedly arrived as Accolade and Electronic Arts present Big Air. As players win competitions, they gain points and are awarded the opportunity to "travel" to other countries and compete in advanced snowboarding contests. If they are able to beat the best riders from around the world, they then take on the ultimate snowboarding challenger, International Boardercross champion, Shaun Palmer.

Sound & Vision

Strange how we all rush out and buy the latest Need For Speed or Ridge Racer car racing game and are easily fooled into believing that we are getting a brand new game. Yet when the latest snowboarding game hits the streets it always feels that when you've seen one... you've seen them all! There must now be more snowboarding games on the Playstation than people that actually participate in the sport, some good... some bad... many indifferent. Big Air takes a slalom ride in between each of these categories.

We've seen it all before, but for the record the live action intro is followed by the option screen from where you may proceed to dress up the skier of your choice. Rather than throw any old garments on, all of the attire has been sponsored. That's right, adverts in your video game! Maybe I'll receive a free wardrobe if I mention that the companies involved are: Wave Rave, Quiksilver, Burton, Ride, Roxy Snow, Mavi and K2 (worth a try). Even the snowboards are sponsored (I'll not mention their names because I couldn't find a use for one). Enough of the begging... on with the show.

I first slipped into the Training mode to run a check over the visuals. First impressions were good as the camera smoothly followed each twist, turn and jump. My snowboarding dapper seemed to move along the practice straight quite fluidly, even the scenery flashed past at a commendable frame rate. Everything seemed to be in high resolution and re-draw distance was acceptable. So far... so good.

After completing my trial run I decided to watch a replay of my escapades. Suddenly the smooth trailing camera tried a few dynamic tricks as it went into a TV style mode. It was darting all over the place, flicking backwards, jolting forwards, mostly glaring into a deep pile of snow. Had this been a TV presentation then the director would be walking.

Time to check out the racing as we go head-to-head against the opposition. The first course up for grabs is in good 'ol USA. This looks fine and in fact reminded me much of the classy Cool Boarders 3. However behind this opening splendor lies a wealth of disappointments. The Swiss course suddenly throws some horrendous pop-up into your face while glitches in the scenery occasionally snag your skier to the track borders. The waver thin trees are as laughable as the cardboard cut-out spectators. Then... you're in Japan where the everything returns to the USA standard... and so it goes on. Big Air Twilight Zone!

Regarding the music. Anyone remember the Banana Splits? I think the music for Big Air was inspired by the Punk and Ska scene but played by those crazy bunch of hairy creatures. It's fine if you like that sort of thing.

Playability

Game modes include Single Player, Two Player, Freeride or World Tour. Individual events include Half Pipe, Big Air, Boardercross, Slalom or Free Ride competitions in courses set in Canada, Japan, Scotland, Switzerland, United States and Germany.

The real deal is the World Tour mode which consists of Freeride and Bordercross through the six countries of the tour. Three races are initially available in Easy mode which must be won to advance. Between each race is a trick event, randomly either Big Air or Half Pipe. Score 1000 bonus points to advance to the next race. After winning all three opening races the first Boss rider must be defeated to unlock the Medium difficulty setting and three further tracks. The next stage involves racking up 2000 trick points to advance onto the Hard stage where 3000 points are required to face the final Boss.

There are a few nice touches to the gameplay including a branching technology to create shortcuts and alternate pathways on every track in the game. On several occasions you will be faced with an alternative route that will take you over highways and railtracks, under bridges or along narrow winding ice paths.

Controlling your skier on the straights is a peach... but the more testing circuits become a frustrating nightmare. It's all down to the over sensitive control system when tight turning. As long as you are using the D-pad the gradual curves of the course can be cruised through with ease but the slightest touch of the slash turn or brake seems to slam the anchors on with painful results. The trick moves are fine but I lost interest when a 1080° nose and tail grabbing stalefish expected me to press R1+C, T, L, L, R, R, R, L, L... in about 1·75 seconds.

Opinion
MARTIN
GRAPHICS: 13/20 What we really need on the Playstation is another snowboarding game... Right?
Wrong!
Another Cool Boarders game would be stretching it, but Big Air falls short of that mark.

I found playing Big Air was like riding an emotional rollercoaster ride. One minute I was suitably impressed with the graphics... the next I was tearing out my hair at the glitches and pop-up. At times I felt in total control and then suddenly with a touch of the slash turn button my skier was wrapped up in the scenery and completely out of it. Bit of a Jeckyl and Hyde game.
SOUND: 7/10
PLAYABILITY: 37/50
VALUE: 13/20
OVERALL 70%

 

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