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by Southpeak Interactive

BM2000_14-01.jpg (4950 bytes)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 N’Sync 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 2000—a game who’s low aspirations guarantee it the acclaim of the American people.

BM2000_03-01.jpg (4195 bytes)I know I can’t 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 we’ve come in the graphics department and B) how little next generation consoles change how games are played. Where’s the innovation? A snowboard game is a snowboard game. There’s 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 we’ve come to expect a little more from our extreme sports games, and Big Mountain doesn’t deliver.

BM2000_04-01.jpg (4678 bytes)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 skier’s 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, it’s a cosmetic issue, because you use the same button combos to execute the jumps.

BM2000_15-01.jpg (4778 bytes)You 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 you’re 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.

BM2000_08-01.jpg (4388 bytes)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 can’t 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 can’t help thinking that it is a little deliberate on the part of the programmers.

BM2000_10-01.jpg (4855 bytes)The graphics have a decidedly first generation feel. With all of the developments on the N64 that we’ve seen on Zelda and Perfect Dark to have a game that so blatantly underachieves in the visual department is inexcusable. It’s not that the graphics are all that bad, but they should be better.

Big Mountain 2000 will satisfy the most casual gamers. There’s 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 won’t bother to look that close.

Jason Frank


Ups: Ski or snowboard; decent everything.

Downs: Mediocrity; skis and snowboards ride the same; only a few hills; dated graphics.

System Reqs:
Nintendo 64


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