Cripplers, Nosebones and Stiffies. Sounds like an exciting evening...
I'm not extreme. I don't spend all day and night looking for that pure adrenaline rush widely talked about by sky divers and bungee jumpers. I don't really enjoy the sensation of my stomach flying through my esophagus trying to catch up with gravity. I don't drink liters of Jolt and Mountain Dew, I don't listen to speed metal, and the only 'shredding' I do involves carrots and lettuce. Tacos, anyone?
So while MTV and ESPN attempt to commercialize a made-up generation of ultra-athletic, brainless risk-takers who only exist to push the boundaries of 'things to do that may or may not kill you,' the gamers wait and wonder how these 'extreme' events will fare as video games. We've seen one recent translation of snowboarding with the decent Cool Boarders 2, but this was only for the PSX. This prompted Sega to make their own, and while Steep Slope Sliders has some glaring faults, it manages to be a nice diversion for those of us too 'un-extreme' to do it for real.
I'm going to come right out and say that I can't snowboard to save my life, or for that matter the lives of loved ones, pets, or even complete strangers. In fact, I'm a barely passable skiier, generally opting for the bunny slopes over the triple black diamond run (usually named something like 'Devil's Armpit'). But I love sports, I love video games, and I absolutely ADORE the Saturn 'Nights' controller. So before I continue with this review, please take my advice and go get this controller. It rules and every self-respecting Saturn fan should own it.
With that out of the way...
Steep Slope Sliders is a straightforward game. You choose a boarder, choose a track, and off yah go rumbling through the snow. On the way to the finish line you are encouraged to leap off of anything and everything in order to score big air and big trick points. You are then ranked by both time and tricks.
The graphics are a mixed bag. In general, most of the tracks and racers are super blocky with enormous pixels. The collision detection is pretty bad; you'll occasionally bump into invisible tree edges or pass right through a snow bank. On the other hand, the animation of the boarders is fantastic. They pull off the tricks with remarkable smoothness and realistically bend limbs to deal with the physics of snowboarding. But overall, this is not a particularly pretty picture.
What is pretty, however, is the killer control. To perform stunts, you simply press a button and the D-pad, even stacking moves in order to pull off some neat combinations. The triggers are used to rotate; this helps to slow down when things are getting a bit too wily and to add flash to tricks. The response is tight and accurate, the feel is dead on, and the moves are easy and fun to pull off.
There are also some nifty options in the game, the most impressive being the replay/edit function. You can save any race, then go back and edit it to your liking. You manipulate various camera angles and cheesy MTV effects (oohhh...strobe lighting...whoa) to create a more 'aesthetic' view of your descent. I actually found this to be a great addition - it really highlights the aforementioned character animations and smooth movements.
Unfortunately, this is where the good stuff ends. There are a lot of problems with the game that really hold it back. For starters, THERE IS NO TWO PLAYER MODE - it's just you and the track. This really cuts out any competitive energy, which takes away from the whole experience and kills the replay value. While you are supposedly careening down a hill at breakneck speeds, the tracks rarely offer much in the way of speed. You never feel like you're going very fast...a bummer, as tracks with names like 'Extreme 3' should at least offer some serious speed. Additionally, the realism is, well, unrealistic. You can somehow scale boulders almost vertically in order to catch air, and perhaps due to some unmentioned contract with the devil, you never fall off the board.
Another gripe I have is the lack of any sort of Tournament mode. Right from the start you can challenge any of the 5 tracks, but there's very little incentive to explore these much. There aren't many different choices of descent routes, and with only 4 secret tracks, there just isn't much gameplay variety. So little, in fact, that you'll get burnt out pretty quickly.
Steep Slope Sliders is a good example of Saturn gaming - some extremely bright spots overshadowed by a roughshod and incomplete feeling product. The 'extreme' imagery just doesn't match the lackluster play. If you're a boarder who's dying to catch monster pixel-air, then take a peek at this one. For everyone else, rent before yah buy.