March 8, 2007

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SSX Blur, Wii
Electronic Arts, 2007
By Glenn Given production@hippopress.com

EA goes big by combining spastic, unresponsive controls with frustrating course design to create a smashing disappointment in SSX Blur.

It must have seemed like such a great idea at the time.

“This could be like peanut butter and chocolate!”

“Or like multi-ethnic buddy cop films!”

“Or wiring your car battery directly to the uncovered metal steering wheel!”

EA should have listened to the man on third. The basics of SSX, huge courses to carve with a dozen or so “X-treme” snowboarders unleashing ridiculous flips and spins and Uber-tricks for multi-thousand point chains remain. The many fans will find that the elegant tight controls of the prior iterations have been thrown out the window. Think that might make a 60mph hurtle down a mountain while executing nano-second flips from rail to ramp to whatever? Yeah, that happened. It’s not an insane idea, after all racing games are frequently made better by way of steering wheels and pedals and such, but the sometimes wonky motion control causes more headaches than it’s worth here. Tilting and rotating the Wii nunchuck moves your rider, but spins, flips and jumps come from flicking the Wiimote and the buttons are used to initiate different grabs, boosts and whatnot. This is made even more awkward when tricks are modified by the nunchuck thumbstick and top-scoring Uber tricks require you to trace a pattern on-screen, which of course fails most of the time to input correctly.

The real killer is that Blur combines the flawed controls with one of its hardest collections of courses yet. The slalom course in particular is nearly unplayable using the motion controls and many of the game’s rail grinds require the kind of precision that just doesn’t manifest on the Wii.

The music is pretty nice, though.

The end result is that SSX Blur will appeal only to hardcore SSX players and the freewheeling fun of prior titles vanishes in a downhill stumble of wrenched wrists and cramped thumbs. C-

— Glenn Given