The genre of snowboarding
games has officially fractured. Back in the day, when we played Coolboarders and nothing
else, there was a mixture of fantasy and reality. Games like ESPN X Games Snowboarding
brought a lot more reality to the screen. Games like SSX (and the successful sequel, SSX
Tricky) have carved a niche for the fantasy element. And games like Amped still offer up
serious doses of reality. Gameplay is pretty similar in all of these titles, although the
fantasy oriented games offer bigger tricks and flashier courses. It all comes down to how
much you personally enjoy snowboarding. Most real-life riders prefer a more realistic
title, while most folks who fantasize about snowboarding appreciate the fantastic elements
of games like SSX. Dark Summit falls somewhere in-between, leaning heavily to the fantasy
side but in a way that real snowboarders will probably appreciate.
Summit puts you in the role of Naya, a trash-talking, mountain shredding snowboarder bent
on uncovering a major conspiracy at Mt. Garrick. Chief OLeary, the head of the Ski
Patrol at Mt. Garrick has been charged with eliminating the snowboarding crowd from the
mountain because everybody knows snowboarders just dont tow the line like skiers.
Something fishy is going on around Mt. Garrick strange deposits of possibly nuclear
waste lie around untended, and there are hordes of Ski Patrol and surveillance commandos
keeping an eye on everything. It all smells like a cover-up, and with the help of your
mysterious snowboarding contacts, you will guide Naya to uncovering the shocking truth
behind the anomalous ski resort.
Dark Summit is not so much shocking as it is really funny. It is the first snowboarding
game to take a mission-based approach, offering up a single player mode that is probably
more satisfying to the non-snowboarding gamer, at least more satisfying than tricking off
every little shoulder trying to build a career as a pro snowboarder. The storyline draws
heavily from the old skier vs. snowboarder conflict, and its really the stuff of
snowboarding legend. Even today there are some resorts that dont allow snowboarding,
and ten years ago there were a lot of them.
story is portrayed wonderfully through a series of challenges you receive. Many of these
challenges are trick-oriented slide so many rails or complete so many combos
without falling. Other challenges are more humorous, such as running into Hanz, the pretty
boy skier, to steal his lunch money, and then avoiding his crazy sister who chases you
down the remainder of the mountain yelling about how you shouldnt pick on her
brother. Youll also find yourself avoiding the Ski Patrol, breaking all kinds of
equipment, and even divebombing robotic cows.
overall ambience of the game comes from a combination of graphics and sound, both of which
are impeccable. The graphics are just what we expect from the Xbox. Movement is very nice,
snow spray shows up at appropriate moments, colors are bright and vibrant, and characters
are detailed. Garrick is a large mountain, and some runs take a long time to complete. You
can see far into the distance, which becomes a large part of how you play the game.
Without excellent clarity of graphics Dark Summit would be a nightmare.
sound adds to the feeling of cracking a conspiracy at a freakish ski resort. As you ride
different non-player characters yell at you. Other skiers tell you to get off the mountain
and shriek when you zoom past them. Ski Patrol follows you, yelling such memorable quotes
as, "Please stop looking for secrets." There is a definite absurdity to the
game, which is welcomed and creates quite a bit of humor. Some of the missions end in
bizarre encounters between characters that can only be described as hilarious. While many
of these catch-phrases are repeated throughout the game, they dont really get old,
which may be because Dark Summit is too short, but well address that issue later.
are well thought out and easy to pick up. Real tricks are blended with fantasy tricks.
This blending works very well for the most part, but it is weird to think that Naya
cant push her snowboard up even the slightest incline (and forget about trying to
hop up the mountain to make a turn or jump you missed), but she can whip her board off and
do flips in mid-air. However, throughout the challenges you are asked to perfect some
standard moves, such as performing manuals on rails and doing trick combos from obstacle
basic layout of the game has you clearing different lifts on the mountain by completing
challenges which show up at different communication points. As you ride, youll
notice beams of light coming down to the mountain from the sky. Follow the beacon to the
communication point and you receive a call on your cell phone. The mystery caller who
helps you out through the entire game will then give you a particular challenge. While
most of these will take more than one try to beat, you can easily restart a challenge
after failing. Once you clear out enough challenges you can go to a different lift.
Eventually you will reach the summit, and the climax, in one of the most literal
translation of Freitags Pyramid Ive seen in a long time.
modes are decent, but nothing that will keep you busy for ages. The best one is probably
Wrecking Ball, where you and a pal ride down a mountain destroying objects. All through
Dark Summit you find yourself destroying fences, snowmen, signs, etc., and its very
cool how pieces of all the things you destroy keep on going down the mountain. You can
chase a giant snowball from a destroyed snowman for ages, watching it take out fences,
signs, snowmen, and skiers in front of you. Race to the Bottom is a lot like it sounds
you and a pal race to get to the bottom first. The final multiplayer mode is Half
Pipe, and its very disappointing. The problem is that Dark Summit isnt really
geared toward half pipe riding (you only encounter the half pipe a couple of times in the
game and its pretty sorry). Unfortunately, the Half Pipe mode is the only one that
scores according to trick performance. It was a major oversight to not have a downhill
freestyle multiplayer mode or to incorporate variable scoring as in Coolboarders to you
could race downhill either for time, trick score, or a combination of both.
Summits appeal is further confounded by the overall brevity of the game. If it takes
you longer than a weekend to beat this one, then you havent played enough
snowboarding games. The brevity would be fine if there were more to the multiplayer modes
or more reason to replay the story mode. Upon completing the game you unlock the other
snowboarders who have assisted you in your mission, and you can play them in the story
mode unlocking new boards, outfits and tricks for each of them. These are good characters,
and its too bad more wasnt done with them.
while Dark Summit is really great the first time through, it gets noticeably less
appealing on consecutive runs. If the multiplayer modes were a little more substantial,
the brevity of the story mode would be much more forgiveable. However, they are not, and
its just a short game. Dark Summit is definitely a title Xbox owners should rent at
the least, and if you are a fan of snowboarding games, especially of the fantasy variety,
then Dark Summit might be worth a purchase, at least until SSX Tricky comes to the Xbox.