Rock a rhyme!
It's tricky to spice up an Xbox port? No it's not! Just about every multi-platform console release to date has turned out best on the Xbox. Consider Tony Hawk, Onimusha, Spider-Man… even Jedi Starfighter was smoother and featured a bonus level. Unfortunately though, SSX Tricky bucks the trend by arriving in almost identical attire. With the exception of the control system, this is the same game that graced the PlayStation 2 oh-so-successfully late last year. But, as we said at the time, it's the perfect combination of racing and tricking, and skilled veterans of the original SSX appreciated the emphasis on showing off. With the exception of a few minor niggles, it was the perfect follow-up.
The Xbox control system is less intuitive than its PlayStation 2 counterpart if you ask me, but that's largely the fault of the developer - Tricky's PS2 control system was inherently flawed anyway. EA Sports BIG chose to change the way the left analogue stick and directional pad controlled movement for SSX Tricky, meaning that it's necessary to juggle a combination of the two, something that messes with the way you approach jumps and grinds, and skewers the previously sound SSX dynamic of holding a diagonal and launching into a spinning grab.
With the Xbox controller only having two shoulder buttons compared to the PS2's four, you have to reach for the face buttons to add extra tweaks and grabs to your aerial display, and given the need to hold the boost button to maximise your velocity, the jump button to get yourself into position, and the constant juggling of the analogue stick and directional pad to keep your position in check, the end product is far too easy to screw up. When you toss in associated problems like the occasionally substandard clipping behaviour, the lack of a decent training mode to ease you into the big-scoring tricks and a set of far more difficult levels, Tricky becomes less inviting and exciting and more frightening.
That said, it's easy to focus on the negative aspects of the game, and the rest of Tricky more than makes up for these shortcomings. The single player mode gives you many riders to choose from, each comically voiced by a second-rate celebrity. The new additions here are creative and charismatic, and those returning from the first game have been spiced up. There are ten tracks to race and trick your way through, and uncovering all of these, maxing out the stats of every rider and finding every board and rider costume is a Herculean task made all the more interesting by the exotic track design, packed with trick opportunities and a myriad of shortcuts, which, if you're anything like me, you'll still be unearthing in a year's time.
The sheer number of different tricks to perform is another thing, and the much-vaunted signature moves (performed when the boost bar is maxed out) are a special reward for those willing to push the game to its limits. Each has an excessively flamboyant animation and is accompanied by Run DMC yelling "It's Tricky!" excitedly. As you find yourself performing more and more of these signature moves you will fill up the Tricky meter and get the opportunity to perform them at your every whim.
With the exception of some extra bump-mapping and a bit of all-round smoothness, the graphics remain largely unchanged, which is a shame when you consider the relative power of the Xbox and what might have been attempted, but overall, this eclectic mixture of snowboarding, boardercross and outrageous stunts dwarves any of the niggles we could care to mention, conspiring to keep you glued to your TV screen for hours. The delightfully smooth split-screen multiplayer modes and added DVD-style Making Of content seal the deal. Amped can keep its realism - if you don't own the PS2 version of Tricky, and you can deal with a bit of a challenge, then SSX Tricky is the cocktail of exaggerated physics, daring stunts and unrivalled longevity you've been waiting for.