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Big Air
Score: 85%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Accolade
Developer: Pitbull Syndicate
Media: CD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Sports (Extreme)/ Sports (Winter Games)

Graphics & Sound:
I’ve never been on a snowboard in my life. That’s probably true of a whole lot of people who play snowboarding games. It’s an extreme sport, a new sport, and a somewhat elitist sport. However, it has a definite allure about it. The snow, the speed, the aerobatics... it’s a combination of strength and grace; a truly beautiful sport. Accolade’s Big Air does a nice job of recreating this beauty. There are many unique and artistically designed snowboards to choose from, and several outfits from brand name snow gear companies such as Quicksilver and Maui and Sons, and the downhill tracks are absolutely beautiful. There is very little problem with ‘pop-in’ (though it does occasionally occur), and the sound effects are very realistic, adding to the immersive feel of the game. You may however want to turn the Music down some to hear the sound effects... unless you love bands such as Limp, Diesel Boy, Caustic Notions, The Odd Numbers, etc. -- then you might just want to crank up the tunes and forget about the sound effects. One sad note is that (for some unknown reason) you are not allowed to chose what song you want to hear during the race... With the bands included on the CD, it would have been nice to allow the player to choose the song from the PAUSE menu.

Big Air is a joy to play. The controls are easy to get used to, and the tracks offer a nice balance of challenge and opportunity to practice doing tricks. ‘Pop-in’ is not bad in Big Air, only occasionally rearing its ugly head. One very noticeable shortcoming, however, occurs when you are quickly shooting down a slope and the PSX has to load the next section of track in. The game only pauses for a fraction of a second, but it is visible. This usually occurs when you’ve really gotten into the game, and you’re giving it your undivided attention, then -- (pause) -- and you’re going again. It kinda reminds you that you’re playing a video game at a time you’d rather not remember that fact. This is a big enough problem to keep Big Air from winning any awards, but it’s still enjoyable to play.

Big Air is very easy to approach, but the ‘tricks’ can be difficult to pull off (especially when you’re given one shot to make 2000 points worth... ARGH!). Racing downhill is easy enough, but learning just how long you can hold and grab your board is a ‘trick’y task. There’s a training mode in the game, but I found that reading the moves in the manual and trying them out during races was a better way to learn how to do the tricks. When you increase the difficulty, the physics engine becomes more realistic. Instead of simply leaning left or right, the board will tilt up and down, and you will slip when you turn... a lot. No REALLY. This is the first snowboarding game that makes it fairly apparent that the reason snowboarding is an ‘extreme sport’ is that you have to be REALLY, REALLY talented to get the board to go where you want it to. This game renewed my respect for professional snowboarders’ talent.

Game Mechanics:
This game has one design flaw that sticks out enough for it to be mentioned in Gameplay. There is some kind of pause sometimes, when you go downhill too fast for the PSX to keep up. It will have an extremely short (but noticeable) pause while it loads the next section of the slope. One interesting feature of Big Air, however, is that its physics engine gets much more realistic at higher difficulty settings, making it behave less like an arcade game, and more like a simulator. (Man, snowboarding must be difficult!)

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

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