Nice view, but you wouldn’t want to live there.
Snowboarders and skiers have a long, healthy tradition of not getting along very well. Apparently, it isn’t easy for both to share the same slope, though I think most of that is crap. Disrespectful idiots are disrespectful idiots whether or not they’re on a snowboard or skis.
But if you believe Dark Summit, you’d think that snowboarders were
downtrodden, punk rock anarchists hell bent on peeing all over The Man’s lovely
white mountain. You’d also believe that this game is actually a brilliant hybrid
of snowboarding and action/adventure gaming, a first-of-its-kind, genre-bending
both cases, though, you’d be wrong. Dark Summit sets its sights high,
but the final product is mainly just a decent snowboarding game with a weird,
lame story. A few cool concepts raise it above mediocrity, however, and make
it an interesting first Xbox entry from THQ.
It seems that strange things are afoot atop Mt. Garrick. Mean-spirited Chief
O’Leary has deemed snowboarders unworthy of mingling with the other mountain
goers and has cracked down hard on anyone having a good time with a board. It’s
your job to get to the bottom of the Chief’s mysterious mountaintop activities
– which may or may not include aliens – and break the bonds that bind the boarders!
In keeping with my alliteration, might I add – BARF! For a game that’s trying
to suck you in with adventure elements, the least they could do was figure out
a better story than this pseudo-Orwellian nightmare. I guarantee you won’t be
able to follow the plot past a few game hours, but it won’t really matter since
you won’t really care.
Why? Because this is a snowboarding game, and most of your time is spent carving up the mountain. You begin on one slope towards the bottom and earn your way up to better lifts by pulling off fancy tricks and accomplishing mission objectives. It’s a simple, nice idea wrapped up in the aforementioned train wreck of a plot.
You start out only able to play as one boarder, Nikki, and will play as her
up until you complete the story. Not allowing you to play as any other boarder
until you’ve beaten the game and are therefore probably about done with it is
a strange design decision. And when I say strange, I mean dumb. Why the hell
can’t I play as the other guys?
At least the gameplay itself is entertaining. As you fly down the mountain, you’ll find these little shining gates to enter in order to start missions. The missions are varied and fun. One might have you jib (grind) a specific table, while another makes you pull off 10 grabs in a certain time limit. Some tie into the story and some don’t, though again, you won’t notice or care much.
mountain is one continuous slab of snow. When you make it higher up, you can
actually board down the whole thing in one monstrous run, which is very cool.
Along the way, you’ll pass by tons of random items littering the courses, and
as you knock into them, they’ll pick up momentum and roll right along with you.
It’s a great effect, particularly when you watch a barrel knock over a group
of skiers in front of you.
But your boarder, who has a tendency to float, doesn’t share the cool physics
of the slope. Her gravity-defying hops can be tough to control do to a somewhat
sluggish response (though it also means you’ll pull off some wicked stunts).
Add to that the fact that it rarely feels fast enough and you wind up with a
slower paced run down the slopes than a doozy like SSX.
Things look pretty good, particularly considering the fact that you can do the whole mountain in one sitting without any loading breaks. The pop-up is minimal and the graphics are clean. Though the textures are a little flat and the character models could use some help, the overall feel is certainly next-gen worthy. I would have loved a burlier framerate, but some of that choppy feel might just be due to the floaty physics.
The game professes all kinds of depth, but I just don’t see it. You can earn
money to use to get a few new boards and plenty of outfits. The outfits may
look cool, but they don’t have any affect on the performance, and I’m not entirely
convinced the boards matter much either. For a game that likes to think of itself
as some manner of RPG, it’s carries far less item depth than any Cool
When you get to the bottom of Dark Summit‘s hill, you find yourself
wondering exactly what they were going for here. It’s not a typical snowboard
game, but it follows the gameplay mold pretty closely. It’s not a strong adventure
game at all, but it tries to add some story. The end result is a strange, somewhat
disjointed game that ultimately doesn’t match its grandiose plans, though there
are some nice sights along the way.