Cool Boarders 2
Last year, SCEA brought us Cool Boarders, an original game that was lacking in a few areas. Now the developers have had a year to listen to the critics, criticism and suggestions to develop Cool Boarders 2. Let me go on the record right now and say, what a difference a year makes!
Cool Boarders 2 is everything the original game should have been. Check these features. Nine new tracks, new moves and a two-player split screen or link mode. Is that not enough? How does four different game modes strike you? Everything you wished you could do in the original can now be done. I guess that is why they make sequels.
Cool Boarders 2 is a snowboarding simulation of sorts. Since snowboarding has become so popular and the original Cool Boarders sold fairly decently, it only made sense to release a sequel. If you are not familiar with snowboarding, it is similar to skiing except instead of using two skis you use a single board. Ah, forget it. If you don't know what snowboarding is, ask anyone else in the world to explain it to you and check back.
Let's get one thing out in the open right away. I was not a big fan of the original game. It was a great idea, but I was let down by the end result. With that in mind, I went into CB2 with mixed emotions. On one hand, I hoped that the game would address all the annoyances of the first. On the other hand, I could not shake the thought of these annoyances carrying over into number 2. After playing for 20 minutes, all my fears were put to rest.
One of my biggest complaints on the original game was the lack of options. You basically raced as a single player against nobody. Thankfully, this is no longer the case. Not only is there a racing mode, they did a great job in creating the starting positions of the racers. Most racing games make you start in last place and battle your way to the front. CB2 gives you the opportunity to determine your own starting position. Before the first race starts, you will have to hit the "Big Air" slope and perform two jumps. The Big Air jump is just as the name implies. You will board down a small slope with a jump at the end. It is up to you to pull off some killer stunts in the air. Your stunts are then scored on criteria including speed, distance, grabs, turns and landing. The total score you receive on the two jumps is added up and then ranked against the seven other computer-controlled competitors. If you finish first, you will be the first boarder out of the gate. If you finish last, you must wait for the other racers to start and then battle your way to the front.
After determining your starting position, it is race time. I can't stress enough how much adding this mode to the game enhanced it. Anyway, back to the race. As I said, once your starting position is determined, it is up to you to get the lead or keep it, depending on where you started, through nine different courses. Each course has a "Big Air" qualifying round before it, so you will always have the opportunity to control your own destiny.
Speaking of tracks, what an improvement! The tracks in this game were much better. I think the difficulty was set at the right level. The early tracks were fairly easy, but the farther you progressed into the racing competition, the more difficult they became. You will have to maneuver narrow paths along the edge of huge cliffs, fly through alleyways between two looming mountains, slalom through trees and avoid tons of other obstacles. Aside from the racing mode, the tracks are the single most improved aspect of the game.
The game does have three other modes of play, although personally it was hard to pry myself away from the competition mode. You can play in the Freestyle mode, which is virtually the same as the original game. This has you racing against the clock (or a ghost image), trying to score points performing tricks. Thankfully, you can now play this mode with a buddy on a split screen or via link cable. This option alone spiced up this event, but when I am by myself, I still prefer the competition mode. Next, you have the Half Pipe. This is a snow-covered half pipe that has you kicking your best tricks. You will be scored on a variety of criteria and it is good practice. The last mode is the Big Air mode. This is the same thing that is used to determine your starting position in the competition mode. This is a great place to go practice your moves before entering the competition, because starting position will make or break you.
This game is not without its flaws, however. Yes, they are fewer and further between and on a much smaller scale than the original, but they are still worth mentioning. My biggest gripe has nothing to do with the actual gameplay. I thought that the original game had the worst commentator in the history of video games (ok, maybe not the whole history, but close). I was wrong. The commentator in CB2 owns that distinction. Talk about annoying, worthless and irritating! He is just plain bad. Also, the game still had a slight pinball effect when you ran into something. I will say that it was much improved, but there were occasions that you would be knocked back and forth between two items like a pinball.
Another area of major improvement was the graphics. Well, I say major improvement, but that is not entirely correct. The backgrounds, courses and objects were improved. The way the snow looked was not. There was a ton of break-up in the middle of the white snow. Racing through trees and towns never caused break-up, but the snow itself did. I don't get it. Other than that, the boarders all look good and watching the replay after you pull off an exceptionally cool trick is pretty awesome.
What a difference a year makes. I commend the developers for not throwing the same crap out and slapping a 2 at the end of the name. This game fixes a majority of my complaints with the original (other than the commentator) and adds a bounty of new goodies. If the original did not impress you, I suggest you give this one a try. I think you may find it more to your liking. If you got into the first one, you will be in snowboarding heaven with number 2.