This speech is my recital...
Developers often get excited over the prospect of sequels, claiming that now they get to make the game that they really wanted to make in the first place. Sounds great on paper, but pooh-poohing your first game just to give validity to its sequel can alienate the crowd you're hoping will buy into the franchise. Some artists are never happy.
But in the case of SSX Tricky, it's clear that the folks at EA Big really truly think that the original SSX was merely an appetizer, albeit a very tasty one with a flaky crust and yummy insides. This pseudo-sequel adds a few new characters, some resdesigned levels, an outstanding new interface and a ton of new tricks, which in turn adds up to yet another PS2 winner from EA.
From the outset it's clear that SSX Tricky really tries to take advantage of the DVD format. Even before jumping into the game, you can access a 'DVD Content' option that gives you access to tons of backstage video footage from the developers. Listen to interviews, explore the psyche of professional game geeks and even check out the celebrity voice actors as they lay tracks.
It might not get your motor runnin' (how many of you really care about the track design process?), but it's a great move to add value to the product. For that matter, the whole front-end has been redesigned to take advantage of the PS2's power. Menu navigation is all 3D, which lends a nice bit of immersion before you're even playing.
Which isn't to say that the gameplay lacks the immersive qualities of the original. Far from it. SSX Tricky keeps the core gameplay intact while adding a few new elements to keep things new.
The main addition is the 'Uber Trick.' When your boost meter gets filled to the max, you can perform insane Uber tricks that rack up tons of points. Nail 5 Uber tricks during a race and you'll have infinite boost until the race ends. Landing the Ubers is tough, though, since they're pretty wild and take time to complete. Boarders will twirl the boards around their heads, grab the boards by the edges and swing them like bats, and even flip them horizontally and breakdance on them...all while sailing through the air. If you thought some of the moves in the original were over-the-top, you have no idea.
As before, you have to trick to get boost power, though this time around you're also rewarded for knocking down your opponents. It's a nice, easy, violent way to power up to an Uber trick. However, a newly introduced 'Friend or Foe' dynamic adds some trepidation. Each racer is either considered a friend, an enemy, or neutral. Whack 'em too much and a neutral or friend will become an enemy, and thereafter will not hesitate to jump on your head or force-feed you a knuckle sandwich. It's a decent check and balance.
Speaking of balance, you'll need plenty of it to handle the brutal, twisting courses. Though only two new courses are here (the novice Garibaldi and the intense Alaska course), the old ones have been redesigned with maximum trick madness in mind. New paths, new turns, new shortcuts and plenty of new jumps make for courses that are familiar to SSX vets, but not carbon copies.
While the redesigns are more challenging than the original versions, they're still built from the same mold, and you can't help but wish they added more new tracks, period. Given, SSX Tricky is technically not a sequel, but considering they're selling it full price, you'd expect more brand new tracks.
I also would have liked a new game mode. As it stands, it's still just Race or Showoff. Get medals to open up new tracks and boards and perform tricks from the Trick book to get new outfits. Pretty standard fare.
The graphics are much the same as the first game: excellent. From the terrific animations to the neat light-sourcing, this is just a good-looking game. The occasional dropped frame is forgiven considering the complexity of the tracks.
Things are up to speed aurally with plenty of techno beats. I'm a big fan of old-school Run D.M.C., but it gets a little redundant hearing the sample 'It's Tricky!' every time you land an Uber trick. Maybe they should have also sampled 'You Talk Too Much.'
Six new characters have been added to the original gang, each of whom has unique Uber tricks. Despite loads of attitude, the witticisms are distinctly less witty after you hear them for the 25th time. Token afro-guy Eddie, voiced by the mildly annoying David Arquette, is, in fact, mildly annoying.
This game just screams for more user customizability. How about a create-a-boarder feature? You'll find that in just about every other snowboarding game under the sun and it really would have been terrific in SSX Tricky.
But when you consider everything else Tricky offers, it stands out as a solid upgrade to an already great game. If you don't own any SSX game, get this one. It's tons of fun. Fans of the original might want to rent first to make sure the purchase is worth it, though.