Back in October of last year, EA released SSX On Tour for all major platforms, including our beloved GameCube. If you are used to past SSX games you already know it’s all about wacky characters, crazy race design, an insane amount of impossible-to-perform-in-real-life tricks, and so much replayability you’ll be tempted to put the disc in your console everyday. SSX has so much to offer, no matter whether you are a casual or hardcore gamer, you’ll love it! First time I played it I was hooked, and I still am!

But is it normal to keep playing a game even when you’ve gotten a 100% completion rating? I really don’t know, but every installment in the SSX franchise has had that effect on me. I’d come back from work everyday and race down the mountain for maybe an hour or so, just because it felt good, as if I was snowboarding in real life. Games rarely have that effect on me. In recent years there has been Metal Gear Solid, Mario Kart, Halo, Zelda and Final Fantasy that have made me come back several times even though I knew the games so much I could have told you the whole game from start to finish by heart, but when you think about it, does SSX really fits into that list of great games? If you talk to people about SSX, I’m pretty sure they won’t put that game in the same league as all those other ones I just named, but I certainly would!

This game’s design is really interesting in that it borrows elements from several places and mixes them into one game. The game plays great, has lots of unlockable content, multiple courses, lots of playable characters as you can create your own, better music than MTV (though I don’t think anyone can do worse than MTV), and a presentation full of style reminiscent of Napoleon Dynamite’s mind… I mean, I would be playing this game and people not used to gaming would see the presentation of the game and thought it was pretty cool, or hear the music and wonder what I was doing as they never thought a videogame could sound like that. This game has just everything casual gamers are looking for like style and also a mainstream look, and it’s simple enough to pick up the controller and learn how the game plays in just a few minutes.

As a gamer, an aspect I am looking for in each and every game I play is to be able to get into it so much that I’m not even aware of what’s going on around me anymore, that I feel I am the character on screen, that I am really living the game. In SSX On Tour, as you start career mode, you get to create your own character from scratch, making it look just like you including clothes and face, down to the beard and hair color if you want to. You then decide if you want to ski or snowboard since they’ve added skiing to make the game appealing to an even bigger audience. Afterward you’ll be competing in many different events, trying to become the number one snowboarder in the world. As you race and win, your rank increases and you get cash prizes to buy new gear and personalize your character even more. Since there are different kinds of events like tricks competitions or just plain old races, you can get different boards to better suit each different race style.

The trick system has been simplified but is still challenging in that making huge combos will still require some practice. You can still do manuals to link tricks. I’d say the big changes here are in the way uber tricks are performed. They changed the uber tricks bar you had to fill in SSX 3 with a new one. This time around you still have to fill it by pulling off an insane amount of tricks, and you can use what you’ve filled to boost, but as soon as it is filled, and as long as you don’t fall, it stays filled so you can boost your way down the whole mountain instead of having to fill it up again and again as in SSX 3. What that also gives you is that once the bar is filled halfway, you can perform the uber tricks using the c-stick. Yep, instead of having to press several buttons at the same time, this time around you push the stick in one direction and the trick is performed. When you do that, time slows down around you and the screen darkens a little, creating really cool looking moments. But what’s even better is that you can perform even prettier tricks that you can get in the game once you buy them. They are still simple to perform, as you have to push the stick in 2 directions, like up then left for example, and then hold it like that to perform the move. This time around the whole screen becomes really dark and there’s this kind of red light surrounding you, and you can see tons of flashes everywhere around you. This game is all about you being a big star, becoming a snowboarding legend, and when performing those crazy tricks, with the rock music in the background, it makes you feel as if you really were a big rock star, and those moments are so amazing, it makes me play the game for hours. You become the center of the universe, nothing else around you matters, you are the big star, and I think that’s what people are looking for in a gaming experience and SSX On Tour delivers on that perfectly.

So even though the game looks really great and can be considered a technical showpiece for the GameCube, what really matters here is that both the graphics and sounds were used to really immerse you into the game, and I think that it was EA Big’s goal. Graphics are important, but only if they help in delivering a believable experience. So I could go on and on about the graphics and particles effects and the technical jargon, but I won’t, just because it doesn’t matter in this game’s case. Everything blends beautifully.

This game takes everything that was good about past games, and adds something new to it to keep things fresh. I think that if EA wants to, they can make SSX their own Tony Hawk franchise and release one every year as long as there is new and interesting content. This game is tons of fun, and with friends it’s even better. If you are looking to pick up a refreshing game for the summer, SSX On Tour certainly is one of the best ways to spend your hard earned money. Trust me on this!