With Boarder Zone, developed by Housemarque and published by Infogrames, an attempt has been made to craft a realistic and immersive snowboarding game that truly captures the essence of this extreme sport.
Previously available on the Game Boy Color, Boarder Zone for the PC offers licensed snowboards: Original Sin's Twister, Salomon's D-Frank and FRS, Rossignol's Pro and Stylus, Nidecker's Babs and Summit, Asnowboard's Feline, and Axel Pauporte and Arbor's D62 KOA. Characters featured in Boarder Zone wear clothing from Nidecker, Bonfire, and Rossignol Winter 1999-2000 collections. The game also includes officially licensed Arnette sunglasses and JanSport backpacks.
Boarder Zone offers nine twisting tracks. Alpine's steep slopes and huge snow formations, masking its icy caves and deadly sharp rocks. Forest tracks that take players through narrow paths and alongside railroad tracks and icy riverbeds. Village tracks that put the player in a ski resort village where they can carve their own path through the streets and rooftops of an alpine village. As in the real sport, you can execute killer tricks, grabs, spins, rotations and combos. Three skill levels offer a challenge to the novice or skilled.
The game modes: Arcade, where you choose an event and compete in a single race; Championship to start your career as a novice snowboarder and win races to eventually become master of the slopes; One-Event Exhibition to enter the Pipe or Big Air competition and become the champion of these events; Practice to test your skills before entering the actual events; and Multi-Player to enter a multi-player race you can back up with trash-talk your friends.
The events: Race, to hit the slopes against five other skilled boarders -- place first and win!; Time Attack places you alone on the slopes, with no one to disturb you in your quest for the fastest time down the hill; Big Air allows you to show off in front of the crowd as you are judged for each jump -- after three jumps, your score will be totaled and compared to the competition; and Pipe challenges you to do as many tricks as possible down the pipe -- the more difficult the trick, the better for you if you succeed!
Boarder Zone also offers a variety of riding conditions: normal snow, powder snow, ice, and rocky areas. You can race in day, sunset, cloudy, and nighttime conditions, as well as in the middle of snowfall or fog. And the game's simulated physics, weather, and lighting effects do have a large impact on gameplay. Also, using a LAN for multi-player gameplay, up to eight players can compete against each other. If you think that you are up to the challenge, it's time to hit the slopes!
Housemarque from Finland (If any of you can remember, they had published an arcade game called 'The Reap', some two years ago. It wasn't highly praised, still I will remember it because it had fantastic graphics and ultra swift action, even on the slowest of machines) developed Supreme Snowboard, and it was published by Infogrames. If ESPN X-Games Pro Boarder started a spark, Snow Wave Avalanche added some more fuel, Supreme Snowboarding made the flames lick higher. To be quite clear: all three games are similar, and everything that appears in one appears in the other two in a slightly changed form.
First things first, one just could not do without three key factors: insanely steep slopes, constantly flowing adrenalin and fast music doing its best to add to the atmosphere and keep up the rhythm. Next come the all too familiar disciplines: race, time race, half-pipe and big-air (or big-jump, which ever you prefer). Then comes the selection of your character (three men and three girls have been made available; note "Firestarter" Keith) and finally the selection of the board. Always think carefully before selecting the board because its features (speed, turning, flexibility) can give you serious advantages on certain tracks. There are altogether nine tracks in three different environments:
Alpine: pure rock'n'snow, caverns and abysses. My favorite.
Forest: A chase through the woods and narrow canyons.
Village: Chase through and about a mountain village and ski-center.
In the beginning you can only access the first two tracks of each environment (easy and middle one), later however, after successfully won championship ride (or possibly, successfully typed in cheat codes) you can access the hardest three tracks.
The best thing about Supreme Snowboarding is its playability. I guess that the ease of gameplay was the very thing that has attracted me to this game. You don't have to remember hundreds of commands like in X-Games Pro Boarder or perform an elaborate ritual just to make your character jump. Apart from the cursor keys you only have two more commands. The riders simply glide down the mountain, bridges, frozen roads, but they do tend to simply stand still if they come across a surface with no snow, even though they were moving at about 100 km/h afore that. Not too realistic, but I guess you'll just have to take that the way it is. Even besides this defect the feeling of the ride is fantastic. And this also goes for different behaviors of the snowboard on different surfaces: easy ride on the smooth snow, somewhat harder controls in deep snow and wild sliding on ice. I simply loved the feel of hitting an ice surface and gliding on it.
There is no doubt that Supreme Snowboarding has the best graphics of all three games... The levels are neatly done, the models are relatively polygonal-abundant, and some effects look really fantastic. The snow trails look very realistic and are much different in deep or shallow snow. Still it seems that Housemarque devoted most of their attention to the excellent dynamic lighting. A night ride down a track lit by flares and fire looks most impressive. The volumetric shadows are the best I have seen for quite some time. Of course, that inflicts the frame-rate, as the game is rather demanding for what it has to offer. Even though two out of three standard APIs are supported (Direct3D, Glide and Software; not featuring OpenGL), it somehow seems that the engine has not been properly tweaked. Let us just say that Snowwave Avalanche did not have too bad graphics, but it still had a far better frame rate on machines twice as slow. Besides the common third person views, there is also a 1st person view which can prove to be very interesting, especially with the volumetric shadows. Just imagine what it is like to dive towards the earth catching glimpse of your realistic shadow on the snow getting closer.
And the last but not the least: the music and sound effects. What could one listen to while sliding down a mountain? We all know what to expect... a lot of lively and fast punk-like music, some faster music and above all, some even faster music. Housemarque has put 8 songs befitting description on the CD. In fact, half of the songs are guitar music with a lot of riffs, while the rest is techno and techno-guitar music. It is basically a good musical background to the game (except for the second part ;) and it is a pity it has not even been signed. I did not manage to find anything about the performers even after searching through the official site. The rest of audio samples vary from the excellent sounds of moving on snow or ice (particularly effective when played from the 1st person perspective) to utterly dull sentences... khhhm, sorry, one and only one utterly dull sentence with which you are being announced on some 'big-air' exhibition. Who would think that it is that difficult to record two or even three vocal announcements?
Still, with all its flaws, Supreme Snowboarding is currently in the leading position of this insufficiently represented genre.
People who downloaded Boarder Zone (a.k.a. Supreme Snowboarding) have also downloaded:
Alpine Ski Racing 2007: Bode Miller vs. Hermann Maier, Cabela's Big Game Hunter 2004, Archer Maclean Presents Pool Paradise, Brunswick Billiards 3D Pro Pool, Maximum Pool, Links 2003, Bluewater Hunter, Castrol Honda Superbike 2000
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