I tend to lump skateboarding and snowboarding games into the same category, not just because you stand on a board. You work your way along a long shallow learning curve in which your thumbs make cool things happen: flips, twists, booger grab reverse wind kickback hippie grinds. Expect a lot of trendy flash, usually with DJ Atomica, purchasable baggy pants and sideways caps, and as many nods to youth culture as a big publisher like EA or Activision can manage (i.e. licensed music, 90% of which I’ve never heard of). The better games have a lot of collectibles, challenges, unlockables, and minigoals to keep you going. But unless you’re one of those Tony Hawk aficionados, your thumb wizardry will soon enough plateau and you’ll have seen all of the game you’re ever going to see without practicing a whole lot of booger grab reverse wind kickback hippie grinds.
However, as I rediscovered SSX, which has been away for far too long, I realized that this is no Skate, Tony Hawk, or even SSX. I love EA’s Skate series all the way up until my thumb wizardry plateaus. But the genius of this latest SSX is that it might never plateau. It might never throw up the usual brick walls. It is as vast as the mountains, as heady as flying, as generous as the sky, as easy as falling, as inexorable as an avalanche. And the more I play, the more I realize that this is nothing like a skateboarding game. What was I thinking? It is quite literally the difference between kicking a board down a sidewalk and falling into gravity’s embrace from the top of Mount Everest.
After the jump, gravity rules Continue reading →