What is it about American
culture that encourages mediocrity? We reward movies like Braveheart and Titanic with best
picture awards, Tom Clancy and Stephan King are always at the top of our bestseller lists,
and Britney Spears and NSync seem unstoppable in their quest to infect our humming
repertoire with their product jingles. Our political candidates have achieved a kind of
perfection of the mundane in a presidential race where the most crucial issue is
prescription drug coverage. Every time we turn on the TV we are telling the advertising
gods which rule the cable companies that another episode of Friends is just fine with us.
In this climate of yawning expectations we get Big Mountain 2000a game whos
low aspirations guarantee it the acclaim of the American people.
I cant compare the two, but I played Big Mountain just days after sampling SSX on
the PS2. I was struck by two things: A) how far weve come in the graphics department
and B) how little next generation consoles change how games are played. Wheres the
innovation? A snowboard game is a snowboard game. Theres not much you can do with
the medium to charge it up a whole lot (I guess you could give your snowboarder an Uzi and
have him shoot up ninjas on the slope). In this day of THPS weve come to expect a
little more from our extreme sports games, and Big Mountain doesnt deliver.
Southpeak Interactive attempts to set themselves apart from all of the other
snowboarding games out there by adding a ski mode. The only justification for this seems
to be a desire to milk as much play time out of the initial three tracks as possible. To
open up the fourth track you must come in first on all three tracks on both skis and a
snowboard. If there is any actual difference in how the skis and snowboards handle, it is
minimal. Even though the sports are very different, they feel almost identical. I was
particularly frustrated by the ski poles. They serve no function other than to decorate
the racer. In real life Snowboarders are pretty much at the mercy of the slope and
gravity, but the skiers use of poles should give a slight advantage when trying to
pick up momentum. The only difference between the two modes lies in what tricks they
perform when they make jumps. Again, its a cosmetic issue, because you use the same
button combos to execute the jumps.
start the game with access to three tracks and three race modes for each track: free race,
slalom, and giant slalom. You get to know each of these tracks pretty well, because
youre forced to go down each of them a minimum of six times (three times on skis and
three times on the snowboard). Your reward is a fourth track and then mirrored tracks. As
you race you can acquire coolness points based on how good you look making your jumps.
These coolness points unlock new boards and outfits. There are six characters "of
wildly varying skill levels to choose from." The only replay value comes from a two
player mode that is as uninspired as anything else in this game.
I have yet to make it down a slope without at least one of the other opponents
running into me from behind. The computer players are more concerned with knocking you
down than with actually winning the race. There is little you can do to avoid your
opponents. They tailgate so closely that you cant slow down without getting
intimate. If this had only happened once or twice I might forgive it, but it has happened
so often that I cant help thinking that it is a little deliberate on the part of the
graphics have a decidedly first generation feel. With all of the developments on the N64
that weve seen on Zelda and Perfect Dark to have a game that so blatantly
underachieves in the visual department is inexcusable. Its not that the graphics are
all that bad, but they should be better.
Big Mountain 2000 will satisfy the most casual gamers. Theres nothing glaringly
wrong with this title; there are just a lot of little frustrations that add up to apathy.
Big Mountain is as All-American as Wal-Mart fashions. No one will be able to tell how
shoddy it is unless they look really close, and most wont bother to look that close.