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A.P.I Review: SNOW RACER '98
Developer: Power and Magic OPTIONS: S.SHOT
SCREENSHOTS:
No.1   No.2   No.3
Distributor: Infogrames 1-2 Player
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.

Genre

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.

Graphics

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.

Playability

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.
Opinion
MARTIN
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.
SOUND: 5/10
PLAYABILITY: 48/50
VALUE: 16/20
OVERALL 88%

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