|Playstation > Whats New > PlayStation Reviews > Staff Review|
|A.P.I Review:||SNOW RACER '98|
|Developer:||Power and Magic||OPTIONS:||
No.1 No.2 No.3
|Game Type:||Racing||Memory Card|
|Review Date:||April 1998||Analog Compatible|
Setting the Scene
I often wonder who it was that first hit on the idea of strapping two planks of wood to their feet and throwing themselves down the side of a very steep mountain that is covered in snow and ice. Although when put in perspective with "sports" such as bungee jumping and free fall parachuting, I guess it doesn't seem such a crazy thing to do after all! The fact that for many countries Snow and Ice based sports are only accessible for a small part of the year doesn't seem to have effected their overall popularity at all. People seem to love the idea of dressing up in luminous padded gear, or skin tight bodysuits and heading off to somewhere really cold just to throw themselves down a mountain - with the high probability of breaking a few bones in the process - go figure? The main reason for doing it must be the amazing adrenaline rush that you get while taking part in these events, something sadly lacking from most games that have attempted to simulate these sports.
Snow Racer 98 is an arcade simulation of several of the most exciting and trendy winter sports. Whether you prefer two ski's or one, the grace of aerobatic stunts or just out and out speed, Paris based "Power and Magic" feel sure that they have something for you in this game. There are 15 massive slopes to choose from, 20 different aerial stunts to perfect and events like Downhill and Slalom Skiing, Alpine speed-boarding and pure aerobatic snowboarding. All of 1998's official ranges are represented and the game is endorsed by both Nidecker and Dynastar.
If its eye candy that you are after, then look no further. Snow Racer 98 is by far the best looking game of its type. The game looks to be playing in a higher resolution than the likes of "Cool Boarders", everything looks crisp clean and still manages to move at lightning speed. As with most polygon racers, there is a little cut-up of the graphics and a few instances when you can see through textures, but these are very few and in no way effect the playability of the game. As we are mentioning technical glitches, its only fair to point out that on some of the faster courses you can visibly see the course being drawn by the computer in front of you, many would argue that this is poor programming, by I say that as long as it doesn't hinder the gameplay (you can still see far enough in front of you at all times) and it means graphics of this quality and speed are possible on the PlayStation - then who cares! I tested this game on a couple of T.V's and found that due to the fact that all of the courses are bright white, I had to adjust the brightness of one of them so that I could see the courses properly. As an experiment I tried playing the game with shades on and found that it improved your visibility (and your appearance) considerably!
Sounds and Effects
Lets face it, this kind of event doesn't really leave itself wide open for unusual stereophonic sound effects that blow your socks off - I mean once you have a few well recorded samples of boards cutting though ice and riding on snow you have just about covered it. Unlike traditional sports, winter mountain based events aren't held in an enclosed arena, where you can both hear and feel the atmosphere generated by the attending crowds which can make up for the lack of other sounds. The designers of this game have made the best out of a difficult situation by including the occasional sounds of cowbells, small clusters of spectators cheering you on as you whiz past and church bells ringing in the distance - it all makes for a lonely atmosphere, which is possibly just how they wanted it to feel? One nice little touch is the sound of your athlete gasping for breath at the end of the event, at times it sounds like they are going to have an asthma attack! You would be forgiven for completely missing the background music that plays during most of the events. Some of the skiing tunes are so quiet that the sounds made by the competitors almost drown them out completely, this effect is very calming, which is quite strange when you notice yourself hurtling down the track at 75 mph with little more than a layer of lycra for protection. The snowboard tunes are far more upbeat as you would expect and contain a mix of heavy dance orientated drum beats and both rock and jazz guitar riffs. One of the tunes in particular has a real "pulp fiction" feel to it. I recommend that you go straight into the game options screen, whack the volume of the tunes right up to maximum and connect your PSX to your hi-fi - it's the only way to fully appreciate these fantastic tunes.
Snowboarding games seem to be popping up all over the place at the moment, in fact they seem to be more popular than skateboarding, rollerblading and cycling games all rolled into one! The designers of this game have very cleverly arranged the different events in such an order that if you simply start at the first available option (which is downhill skiing) and work your way through to the very last (which is Alpine combined downhill and slalom) you will pick up the skills needed for the following event one by one. Its also a great way for me to introduce all of the different events to you. For example, the downhill skiing event is all about controlling your competitor under very high speeds over a very steep and undulating course. It forces you to learn the three courses and gain basic control of the skier (and that's all). You then go onto the Slalom Skiing, which needs all of the previous skills but demands a much higher degree of control of your skier (in order to guide him through each of the many gates strategically positioned down each of the three new courses). In both of these events your sole aim is to get to the bottom of the slope as fast as possible. You are racing against five other skiers, but to be honest I felt that this event was far more a battle against the course itself rather than the other competitors - at least on the "medium" difficulty setting its was. The feeling of speed was awesome and the way that the tracks offered a combination of tricky turns, jumps, drops and inclines kept your adrenaline pumping and heart racing throughout these type of events. The third type of Skiing on offer was a combined downhill and slalom event. I loved the skiing and thought that it was good enough to have been released as a stand alone game in its own right. It's the first game of this type that has wanted me to keep going back to it time and time again. Freeride Snowboarding comes next and introduces a new skill that needs to be learned - aerobatics. Although you still need to be able to "control" your competitor and there is a "time" limit on each track, it would be fair to say that the emphasis in these events is to score as many points as you can by performing breathtaking arial tricks and stunts. I would suggest that you spent a little time practicing the various stunts that can be done before seriously trying to win any of these events. The pace of this event is far more sedate that the skiing , but as you find yourself frantically pressing buttons (tekken style) to pull off these tricks, it could hardly be described as relaxing. Again there are three variations of this sport: The first takes place down a mountain slope - complete with bridges to jump, boulders to avoid and fallen trees to duck under. The second is a short course consisting of one massive jump that lets you really get creative with your arial acrobatics. The third is a combination of the two. Practice, practice, practice on the first two styles of racing or you will find that the final type of event on offer will be almost impossible to master. The Alpine Snowboarding combines the speed and adrenaline of the Skiing with the grace and skill of the Freeride Snowboarding. This time the time is tighter, the speeds are faster, the courses longer and the number of points you must get from performing tricks is simply massive! Again the three variations on this theme are Downhill, Slalom and a combination of the two. So that's the events covered, now for a few other observations.... * Track loading times are between 10 and 15 seconds, not quite long enough to make a cup of coffee but long enough. * There are loads of different skis and boards to choose from in each event - some will let you go faster and others give you more control. * There are usually four or five competitors to choose from, each of differing weights - which can effect acceleration and turning. During the skiing events you may find yourself wondering if your competitors have any brains whatsoever - they always seems to follow the same track and fall over at the same places. * The difficulty level on "medium" is spot-on and should allow you to win the easier slopes, while finding the later ones quite tricky. * When doing the slalom events, the hardest part can be actually seeing the gates that you have to ski between, therefore there is an option to switch on markers which will boldly display each pair of gates long before you reach them, this makes this style of event highly playable and challenging rather than a complete waste of time. * The controls are very simple to pick up, allowing you to concentrate on playing the game very quickly. Right guys, this game is an absolute blast to play and stands miles ahead of the competition. The game has many plus points which have been revealed, however it has ONE major flaw that will help you during the early stages, but may effect the games overall lifespan its the collision detection - which seems to have a mind of its own. Some of the time you seem to be able to go straight through the middle of obstacles (such as large trees) without so much as a bump or a scratch and other times when you would swear that you just managed to miss them, you find yourself doing cartwheels down the mountainside.
Value for Money
Snow Racer 98 has three different types of event available and within each event are three further modifications making nine different games that can be played. Add to this the fact that you can play "Arcade", "Time Trial" and "Split-Screen 2 Player" games and all in all you have a pretty value for money game. While I don't think that you will still be playing the single player modes in a couple of months, the two player mode will last as long as your mates will want to play against you.
|GRAPHICS:||20/20||I promised myself that if this game turned out to be as disappointing as Nagamo Winter Olympics was, then I would write a tiny review warning people away from this title. The great news its that its brilliant, very playable and has that "just on more go" feel to it that is lacking in so many of the current releases.|