SSX Blur Review (Wii)
Submitted on: Mar 27, 2007 by Shawn Drotar
The over-the-top SSX series has always had gamers bouncing up and down in their chairs and leaning from side to side as they careen down mountainsides, so bringing the series to the Nintendo Wii seems perfectly natural.
A creative control scheme keeps the game fresh, but its steep learning curve makes SSX Blur less-than-accessible for the masses.
All of the game modes you'd expect from an SSX title are here, of course: races, trick events and other skill challenges, and there are plenty of thing to win and unlock, so SSX veterans will feel quite at home.
That is, until you try the Wii's controls. There's a lot to get used to, and going through every tutorial is an absolute must. You'll use the stick on the Nunchuk for basic steering, but sharper turns will require you to twist your wrist, as well. When it works right, it's a blast, and it's genuinely fun simply winding your way down the hill. But at times, it seems as if the controls simply don't follow your commands, and it's common to miss a tight turn, instead flying to the outside and blowing your line. It's aggravating, and what's worse is that we haven't gotten to the tricks yet. It seems that as much blame could be laid at the feet of the Wii's hardware itself than at EA's, but regardless, there are big-time problems here. The idea is that your player will jump by yanking upwards on the Nunchuk or pressing the A button on the Remote, and then using a particular gesture to call for a specific trick. It rarely works as you'd expect it to, and in the end, your character's usually flailing about in mid-air as you desperately try to land without looking like the unfortunate ski jumper in the famous intro to "Wide World of Sports".
It's too bad, because in the earlier races, the control issues don't necessarily surface, and SSX Blur is an awful lot of fun when flying down the mountain.
The game's sounds are excellent, and the music is fitting enough. Blur's graphics are solid enough for the Wii, with pleasing animations and cute touches like seeing your character covered in snow for few seconds after a nasty wipeout, but there's nothing that'll make you confuse it for a PS3 or Xbox 360 title. It's more in-line with the PS2.
SSX Blur does a decent job of growing with you as you play, and that's to the design team's credit. After I had experienced enough frustration in certain tutorials, I decided to simply try a race and take my chances. As it turned out, I won easily, and the game's difficulty ramps up from there at roughly the same pace as your skill does - a necessity given the touchy controls.
It's easy to find something interesting to do in SSX Blur, whether it's cruising the mountain looking for challenges or working your way through the Career Mode. Load times are pleasantly quick for the most part, and restarting an event happens almost instantly, so you're rarely sitting on your hands and waiting to play. Unfortunately, many of the tracks are quite familiar. Honestly, I can't remember the last time I played an SSX game, or even which version it was, but on most tracks, I had a definite feeling that I'd been there before, and that's a bit disappointing. On top of that, you'll miss turns due to the controls and occasionally find yourself stuck behind a rock or fallen tree, which can be bothersome. New tracks, if designed correctly, could have mitigated some the issues with the control scheme, and made this game much more enjoyable and fresh.
There are split-screen races and trick events available, and playing the game with a friend makes the game much more enjoyable. Sure, you'll both bash into trees from time to time and get frustrated… but at least it's fair.
In the end, SSX Blur feels like a missed opportunity. The series is solid, but too little of this game is truly new, save for the functionality provided by the Wii's unique control scheme - and that doesn't quite work right. It's too bad, because the moments I had early on were quite enjoyable, and you can see the potential here, but for now, it's a fun but forgettable game that feels like it could have been so much more than that.