Review by: Mike Laidlaw
Published: February 1, 2002
After Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater blazed a new path in the sports genre by taking to new “extreme” levels, just about every variation of borderline suicidal activity has been rendered into the digital. One sport which has proven, at least partially, a natural fit has been snowboarding, and developers have been flocking to their keyboards to code about as many virtual slopes as the world has real hills. With this Christmas season’s gaggle of releases, including SSX Tricky, Dark Summit, Amped and even ESPN International Winter Sports 2002, it’s easy to get lost in the hills, as it were. One title, though, should stand out to gamers simply because of its lineage. Published by Activision and developed by Dearsoft, Shaun Palmer’s Pro Snowboarder shares more than just a naming convention with Neversoft’s seminal skateboarding title. This alone should be enough to tweak players’ interest, though similar attempts at converting a successful formula to a new medium have failed to recapture the original magic in the past. That said, let’s strap in and take a run down the virtual mountainside to see how it fares against a broad field of competitors.
The first thing you will notice about this snowboarding title is its remarkable similarity to Tony Hawk‘s controls. This means that veteran Pro Skaters will be able to leap right into this game with no problem. There are a few key deviations and the most notable of these lies with the former “kick flip” button, which has now become the more expansive flip button. Understandably, rotating your entire body takes significantly more time than kicking a skateboard, so there may be an adjustment process consisting of many painful neck and back injuries for your rider.
The grab commands remain mostly unchanged, though they now require more effort if you wish to score particularly well. Instead of the simple directional controls that determined which move you’d perform, some now require controller rotations or sequences similar to those found in fighting games. As might be expected, holding grabs will eventually “tweak” them into new variations on the same hold, always resulting in more points. Grinds and slides are still readily available as well, and you can easily pull any number of variations by pressing in a direction while getting on the rail. Unlike skateboarding, however, you’ll have to forgo the kick move combinations that are impossible in a snowboard’s bindings.
What’s not impossible, even though this plays a bit fast and loose with the physics of snowboards, is the process of riding manuals down the hill, meaning the Pro Skater combo chains are in full effect here. For the layman, a manual is a careful balance on the front or back lip of the board and in game terms, it basically serves as a means by which you can chain tricks together in a theoretically unlimited fashion. Also included in Mr. Palmer’s simulator is the revert, a move introduced in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3, which allows you to continue a combo after an air move by spinning the board quickly into a manual after landing. Those looking for massive scores will have to master this aspect very quickly.