GRAB YOUR BOARD, CHECK YOUR BINDINGS. . .
UEP systems latest speed racing game, Cool Boarders 2, tests the player's ability to combine the speed of the sharpest downhills with the precision of a gymnast. This game provides challenges, not only on the racing level, but on the acrobatic level, as well. This version differs from the original Cool Boarders by giving more board/racer options, and the opportunity to practice and compete in individual aspects of snowboard riding.
In the original Cool Boarders, the player was only given the opportunity to ride one of three different downhill courses and be scored on a combination of course time and the sum of his/her trick scores off the jumps. In Cool Boarders 2, you can compete in (and practice for) separate competitions for both downhill racing speed (Freestyle) and trick jumping abilities (Big Air). In addition to this feature, there is a new Competition mode where your rank in a trick jumping contest, on a stadium-sized jump, determines your position in the staggered start of a downhill race. Keep finishing competitively and you can compete in more rounds on different jumps and courses.
In the Freestyle mode, which allows the player to practice their downhill racing, there is a two-player feature that allows head-to-head racing competition. This is the best improvement over the original game. The rest of the features just allow the player to compete against him/herself or a stale computer opponent. In the two-player freestyle mode you get split screen (horizontal or vertical) action that can be made even more competitive with five special rules that toggle on and off to add the need for varied strategies and skills. With more courses to choose from, and an almost overwhelming number of board/rider combinations, this mode is like the original Cool Boarders after a triple espresso.
The least entertaining of the modes is the Big Air mode. This mode gives you two options. One of them is called "master" and the other is "contest". In the "master" option, the player is sent swooshing down a course with nothing but jumps, while the computer instructs the rider on which maneuver to perform. Fail to perform the appropriate maneuver, and the computer will not let you go on to the next one until you do. The "contest" mode is nothing more than a series of endless opportunities to pull tricks off of the stadium-sized jumps. After each jump, the player must wait to see the score from the jump, and if desired the replay, then select to "retry" the course. The only thing more boring than playing the Big Air "contest" option, is watching someone else play it, or maybe watching snow melt.
In addition, there is a Halfpipe and a Board Park Mode. The Halfpipe mode allows the player to test their skills at ripping up a halfpipe and pulling mind-boggling maneuvers. The scoring on this feature is tough because the player is scored not only on the accuracy and execution of their maneuvers, but on the variety of tricks performed. The Boardpark is the tamest of all the modes. In the boardpark there is no time limit or competition. This run is not even scored.
When first playing the game the moves seem to be hard to pull off and the game seems slow to respond to the controller. Play for a little while longer and you will realize that the game plays so quickly that if your moves are not timed right, or your controls are just a bit late the game does not wait for you to make up your mind. The real key to this game is timing. For the best air off of the jumps, the racer must leap right at the end of the jump. Any sooner or later, and the jump will yield significantly less air. When it comes to the downhill racing, there is no way to be successful without knowing the course beforehand. The early level courses can be managed without any special practice, but the more difficult courses will require that the racer knows all the turns, obstacles, and moguls before they show up. This can prove especially frustrating when trying to progress through the levels.
The biggest problem with Cool Boarders 2 is that playing the game well only requires patience, memorization and timing. This is about as fun as it sounds. The winner every time is the person who has memorized the track best.
The great graphics and replay camera angles on this game can make up for any lacking in game play, almost. While the game is difficult to play, initially, it can be learned with a fair amount of practice (and maybe a few minutes spent reading the manual). This game has more play features than the original, but the features really just isolate aspects of the same game included in Cool Boarders. While this game, especially the two-player feature, is definitely an improvement over the original, its improvements are more for the player who wants a game to spend all winter just trying to beat a computer opponent.