SSX on Tour Review (PSP)

Electronic Arts is committed to the PSP platform, and they've been busy bringing as many of their tried-and-true franchises to Sony's portable system as possible.
SSX On Tour hits the PSP slopes like a breath of cool Rocky Mountain air. Like EA's sterling Burnout Legends, this fast, fun thrill ride translates extremely well to the PSP, and is perfect for a quick arcade gaming fix.

Operatin Sports' own Mark Fossen tackled SSX On Tour for the Xbox only a few weeks ago, and naturally, the PSP version is extremely similar - so I'll refer you there for the nuts and bolts, and I'll fill you in on what's specific to it's handheld sibling here.

Sure, the SSX series has always had "mad trix" play a part (mainly to gain turbo and get you downhill faster), but the focus on racing is a good thing. While the PSP has enough buttons to handle the trick controls just fine, it requires significantly less legerdemain to point your tips downhill and tuck for the finish line. With nearly three decades of gaming in my rear-view mirror, I always appreciate not having to contort my poor, arthritic fingers in ways that would make Copperfield blush.

The trick system is indeed easy to use and fun to watch, although the huge, "monster" tricks are more difficult to pull off - it's not as intuitive, and you'll likely find yourself repeating the big tricks all too often. Punching fellow 'boarders and skiers as you fly by can help you gain turbo, as well. That's demented fun, but I still can't bring myself to clobber the pee-wees snowplowing down the slope at a crawl - I have to draw the line somewhere!

While the sense of speed isn't as overwhelming as it is in the console versions, it's still pretty darned speedy, and a lot of fun. The excellent course design requires the gamer to be both technical and fast while navigating their way down the slopes, and with multiple short-cuts available, learning the runs is paramount to success. Fortunately, learning them is so much fun, you won't mind the work…

The single-player mode is simplified, but still gives the player plenty to do. The Tour is your standard "play-one-event-and-unlock-the-next-one" experience, but there's more than enough variety within the events to keep things interesting. While the detailed character creation tool is noticeably absent from the PSP (you can select a male or female alter-ego, and that's it), you can still customize your character with some equipment and gear later on, and it does provide a little individuality to the title.
Speaking of that, SSX On Tour's "Napoleon Dynamite-meets-Shaun White" visual style translates over to the PSP with it's freak flag flying high.
Whether dancing unicorns are your thing or not (I checked - it wasn't coded in Amsterdam!), there's no doubt that the game isn't run of the mill, and that's a welcome departure from too many titles today.

Graphically, the game is a joy to look at; boldly colorful and moving along at a solid frame rate - with one major, extraordinarily annoying exception - the bane of my gaming existence, EA Trax. When a new song starts, the far-too-large shield logo slides in and chews up about one-fourth of your screen space - and leaves with your frame rate in tow. Wonderful… that's so worth it. It does clear up after a second or two, and after you scrape yourself off that tree that you just chugged into while having to read Iron Maiden's name again, you can resume your race.
At least you can turn the notifications off, right? Nope - there's marketing afoot… and if it means distracting the player and damaging the gameplay because of it, so be it.
At least Nicko McBrain's another dime richer…

I would be remiss if I didn't take note of the clipping issues that do turn up from time to time. I have ended up flying right through trees (unrealistic, but not deleterious to my standing), and stuck inside trees (to the contrary, extraordinarily problematic) on multiple occasions. However, this still appears a lot less often than that frame-rate stealing Frisbee mentioned above, and as such, it's less of a major disappointment than a mild annoyance.

Ad-Hoc (local for the Sony lingo impaired) play is available in case you have multiple friends with PSP's and game copies sitting around, but unless you're on a bus or something, it's not terribly handy. If there was one EA PSP title that could have really used Infrastructure (again, Sony's way of saying "online") play - this was it. It would have taken the game's replay value through the ceiling - but as it stands, something's better than nothing.

On the whole, SSX On Tour delivers a great PSP experience for the gamer on the go. Like most multi-platform releases, this one doesn't quite match up with the encompassing experience of its console brethren, but it's fast, fun, deep and pretty. What more can you ask for? If this is where EA's taking PSP gaming down the road - ahem, slope - then count me in on the express lift.

SSX on Tour Score
out of 10