Review by: Doug Trueman
Published: February 19, 1999
Cool Boarders 3 is the most recent snowboarding game to hit a console system in a while, and it’s one of the best. Although not as visually enticing as Nintendo’s 1080, 989 Studios more than makes up for this because it more accurately portrays the nitty-gritty world of snowboarding. Snowboarders are generally thought to be more “down and dirty” than their skiing brethren, and Canadian Olympic snowboarder Ross Rebagliati’s brief suspension of his gold medal at the Nagano games for having traces of marijuana found in his bloodstream didn’t do anything to improve their reputation. But snowboarders show no signs of changing, and society doesn’t seem in any hurry to pressure them. It’s a rough sport, far rougher than skiing: when was the last time you saw a skier slide down the rail of a ski lodge just for the thrill of it? These are reasons why a game developer should avoid making a “clean, fun” snowboarding title — mature gamers just wouldn’t accept it. Fortunately for us cyberboarders, though, Idol Minds has done its homework, and although the game falls somewhat short technically, it more than compensates by deluging the player with options and realism.
Cool Boarders 3 puts the player in command of one of many different boarders: there’s the short, pudgy Cliff; the tall blonde babe named Summer; a Japanese woman named Akiko, a purple Mohawk-sporting man named Joker and several others. The images of the boarders on the character select screen shows that Idol Minds has chosen verisimilitude with their new characters: none of the boarders are polite, “mamma’s boys” individuals that you would want to bring home to meet your family (but I’m sure boarders of that kind do exist somewhere in the world). They all have a definite “I’m too bad for this game” attitude, some more than others. But all of them can carve up one wicked mountain.
Regardless of their ability, no one wants to spend the time and money boarding a boring hill. But we all have to start somewhere, so the programmers at Idol Minds have created half a dozen mountains for our boarding pleasure. There’s the green run Powder Hill for neophytes to cut their teeth on; Devil’s Butte for more experienced gamers, and Mt. Koji for the black diamond racer in all of us. These three are only initially open to the player; the other three have to be earned by winning competitions. The next three (named Alps, Everest and Avalanche) are deadly enough to give even the most insane boarder pause. Alps is boarded by the light of the moon, Everest has enough trees and rocks to kill every boarder in the world, and Avalanche is just that: a cascading wave of snow that chases the hapless boarder down the hill until he either makes it out alive or dies trying.
Once gamers have chosen a character they have to then select a board from a similarly large collection. There are three different types: Freeride boards for equally weighing balance and speed; Alpine boards for leaving your opponents in your wake, and Freestyle boards whose flexibility and agility will help you land that impossible backflip. The boards are all ranked according to stability, response, and maximum speed, so choosing the right board for the right type of course is crucial. From there players can even decide how to orient their player: there is the regular position (with the left foot facing downhill) and the “goofy foot” position (with the right foot taking the lead). I didn’t notice any difference in terms of gameplay resulting from my chosen lead leg, but I must admit that the goofy foot position felt wrong.
With board, hill, and character chosen, players must then choose from one of six events: there’s the Downhill, where gamers race against three CPU opponents in an attempt to beat them to the finish line while also scoring points by landing difficult tricks. The Boarder X event puts players against a group where they must negotiate a series of gates: missed gates mean a one-second penalty. Slalom is exactly like Boarder X except it only features head-to-head competition. There is the Half Pipe event (which needs no explanation), the Big Air event where players try to pull off the greatest combination of tricks without killing themselves, and Slope Style. Slope Style puts players on a course littered with jumps, logs, trees, cars, buses, park benches and fallen pipes; players can ride anywhere they want and perform tricks and combos only limited by their imagination. The Avalanche mountain isn’t a course in the strict sense of the word, as only one goal exists: survive.