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A.P.I Review: Cool Boarders 3
Developer: Idol Minds OPTIONS: S.SHOT
SCREENSHOTS:
No.1   No.2   No.3
Distributor: Sony 1-2 Player
Game Type: Snowboarding Memory Card
Review Date: December 1998 Dual Shock/Analog Compatible

Setting the Scene

To the uninitiated snowboarding is very much a sport for the nineties. Participants are often portrayed as wild and unruly characters mainly because of their bizarre sense of dress and the crazy off-course rave-ups.
The truth is that snowboarding is an extremely skillful sport that requires nerves of steel, bones of rubber and joints of elastic. Of course a slightly loose screw can sometimes be advantageous due to the nature of the event - hurtling down a steep snowy mountain side balanced on what in effect is a miniaturized surfboard.

Genre

Following on from the incredibly successful Cool Boarders 1 & 2, this is the sequel that boasts 2-player split-screen action, plus a range of classic and all-new gameplay modes, with tracks being unveiled as rewards for your racing prowess.

Additionally, the game plays host to a strong cast of racers, each with their own individual styles, strengths and weaknesses, plus all-new tracks in environments so breathtaking you can almost feel the icy air whistling round your ears.

Graphics

Wow! Double Wow!
Cool Boarders 3 is milk! It's smooth! It's refreshing! It's cool! It's white... and it's probably good for you!

Graphically Cool Boarders 3 smacks you right between the eyes as soon as the first screen loads up. The improvement over last years effort is colossal and justifiably stands alongside the likes of Crash Bandicoot Warped when it comes down to visual quality. Gone are most of the glitches where you could see straight through the scenery. No longer do the ski slopes appear as large chunks of glacier held together by a couple of ice cubes... we're talking continuous scenery here! 1080 Snowboarding? Hey, Nintendo, what do you need 64-bits for? Suckers!

The snowboarders take on more of a cartoony appearance than in previous efforts but the use of rich coloring and high resolution only makes the characters stand out more against the blinding, silky smooth, snowy backdrop of the slippery piste (now there's a tongue twister). Gone is the totally useless first person perspective to be replaced by a selection of third person views which all look very similar.

The intro features film footage of live action snowboarders, blending neatly together with some tasty in-game shots. Skillful editing means that you sometimes have to look twice to separate animation from reality.

It's worth a quick mention of how sponsorship is creeping more and more into video games. Everywhere you look high profile names are emblazoned on the scenery promoting everything from Swatch timing to Levi web sites. Whatever next... pay per view boxing games?

Sounds and Effects

Let's rock! What else could accompany a session of snowboarding but a selection of thumping rock tunes. Nothing out of the ordinary, but suits the purpose. The sound effects on the other hand are splendid. Try switching off the music and take in the ambience that is created by the combined effects of the cold wind whistling through the snow laden pine branches and the crunching loose layer of frozen ice as it is blended and spliced by the base of your snowboard. Terrific!

Playability

Okay, so it looks and sounds cool enough but where would we be without good old fashioned gameplay? A quick visit to the options screen highlights the first upgrade (or downgrade, dependant on your personal opinion). Cool Boarders 3 moves a little closer to ESPN Extreme Sports than I would care to see with the option that allows your boarders to... fight! Suddenly your front shoulder buttons are transformed into left and right hooks which helps destroy any credibility that the sport of snowboarding may already have gained. I suppose it's difficult to condemn this inclusion considering that the fighting mode can be switched off before commencing play, but.....

With fighting mode switched off I first checked out the joypad actions. The buttons now have a dual purpose for ground and air. In the air the controls allow for spins, grabs, flips and specials. With your feet planted firmly on the slopes shoulder buttons switch stance and perform an emergency stop. Directional buttons, or left analog stick, steer your boarder and drop into crouch position, with face buttons used for a hard turn and jump.

It's the jumping motion that takes some getting used to. On-screen is a small scale bar which rises when the jump button is held down. Should you fail to release it when the summit of a hill precisely matches the rising line at the top of the bar... then nothing will happen. Get the timing correct and your boarder will launch up in the air where spins, grabs, flips and specials may be performed.

Game modes include a practice option, single event or a full tournament. Cool Boarders 3 also caters for two players with a split screen head to head mode that moves along at a steady pace and because of the lack of CPU competition it may be worthwhile switching the fighting mode back on.

You cannot complain at the selection of mountain courses or the number of skiing characters and board types available. Initially there are only three mountain tracks open, Powder Hill, Devils Butt and Mt Koji. But as you advance through the tournament there are a further four ranges to unveil culminating in the mighty Everest, the testing US Open and a downhill race against... an avalanche!!!

Each slope is the venue for six very different events, which are Down Hill (straight race downhill), Boarder X (follow the flagged route and don't miss any gates), Slalom (weaving between colored flags), Half Pipe (perform tricks in a course the shape of 'half of a pipe'), Big Air (down the slope, up in the air and wiggle those hips for points) and Slope Style (downhill obstacle course). Although none of the circuits match the length of any of those seen in Cool Boarders 2 this game does offer over thirty different rounds of competition, which cannot be sniffed at.

Value for Money

In terms of control I was a little disappointed. The jump system is far too accurate to be classed as fun and when you finally get the skier up in the air he barely leaves the ground. A little more spring in his step would have been nice. The trick moves are a natural progression from the first two games which many may find a little too steep.

Aside from these few grumbles Cool Boarders 3 will warm the hearts of many gamers after a night out on the piste.

Opinion
MARTIN
GRAPHICS: 19/20 Visually this is a stunning video game and leaves me wondering just where the developers are squeezing the extra memory from on that 'little old PSX console'. This certainly shows Nintendo's 1080 Snowboarding the way home.

In gameplay terms it left me a little 'cool' because I felt as if I had done it all before... which I had, 12 months ago. Saying that, Cool Boarders 3 is certainly the best snowboarding game on any system, by a long shot.
SOUND: 7/10
PLAYABILITY: 43/50
VALUE: 17/20
OVERALL 86%

 

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