|When I received Rippin' Riders to review, I wasn't quite sure
what to expect. In the last year or so, Snowboarding games have been growing faster than
the sport itself. With a collection of titles like 1080, ESPN2's X-Games Pro Boarder, and
the Coolboarders series, what makes Rippin Riders stand out? Hmmm, could it be the amazing
graphics, the unique and imaginative courses, and the ultimate Ultra-Super-Pipe, or is it
the special tricks for each rider, the one-on-one shrink your opponent's window match play
and the fact that you can play as a snowman cruzing down the hill on a dustpan? Frankly, I
can't decide. This game sparked my interest from the beginning and kept me from eating or
sleeping for the better part of a week after I got it.
Rippin' Riders is the latest release from our friends at UEP-Systems. If you've been following the Boarding games trend, UEP are the guys that brought us Cool Boarders 1 and 2. CB was then taken over by 989 Studios to produce the third and fourth installments of the series. But in Japan, UEP-Systems is still allowed to use the Cool Boarders name. Thus, Rippin' Riders was called "Cool Boarders Burrrn" before migrating to the United States. Incidentally, if you were to be playing this game in Britain, it would be called "Snow Surfers." Ok, so everybody clear on the politics involved here? Good, let's talk about game play!
There are 3 different play modes to choose from: Free Ride, Super-Pipe and Match. When I fired up the game, I headed straight to the Super Pipe; I wanted to "Bust some phat air," as the friendly announcer would say. It was fun to hit the pipe, and I was launching a little bit in the air, but I was crashing way too much, and I wasn't pulling off any cool tricks. What good is a half pipe without tricks? So I decided to read the instructions. Turns out that I wasn't used to the jump controls. You have to power up your jump by holding the A button, the longer you hold the button, the more effort your little dude will put into jumping. You've also got to decide to spin or flip at this time, because you can't start spinning when you're in the air. Once I caught on to the input method, I was kickin' out huge jumps with lotsa rad tricks, and I was having a blast!
After I had had my fill of the pipe, I decided to try out the Free Ride section. In this playmode, you get to ride down the hill through forests, caves and small Swiss villages. You are riding against the clock, but get additional time for pulling some hot tricks along the way. There are specified Trick Areas where you are expected to pull some sort of tweak, mute or method, and watch out, you'll get heckled if you don't. Throughout the game, the announcer is shouting things like "Not bad, but you can do better than that," and "What are you doing?" You'll also get props from him if you hit a hard trick and land it right. But even the praise got a little annoying after a few hours. Luckily, you can change the announcer's voice to a milder (and less annoying) female voice. I locked that setting in, and don't plan on changing it for a while!
When you enter play mode, you need to pick a character to ride with, an outfit for your character, and the board to ride. Each of the 7 starting riders has a different set of strengths and weaknesses, so you can choose your rider according to the type of course you are going to be playing. The riders are Jimmy, Monica, Axel, Ronnie, DJ Ken, Tia and Bob. My favorite quickly became DJ Ken. He's got a high quickness and technique rating and two awesome tricks that are pretty easy to pull off quickly. Jimmy's strength lies in speed and power, while Bob has a great jumping ability and technique to compliment it. The two girls, Monica and Tia are both pretty good at jumping and tricking out their jumps. In addition, Monica has a good grasp on high speeds and Tia has an "uncanny sense of balance." Ronnie's strong points are his strength and great special tricks. Finally, Axel is a well balanced boarder with some cool "out of the binding" tricks. Each rider also has his/her !own music preference, and that type of music plays in the background while youre playing.
The courses for the game have to be one of its best points. The graphics are astounding. Even as you rush by trees and fly off the rooftops in small villages, you can see waterfalls in the background and the lights of helicopters flying overhead. In addition to the beautifully rendered surroundings, the courses are a lot of fun. Even after getting past course 5, I still enjoyed going back and spending a couple of hours on course 1. Each course has several different shortcuts and alternate trails to take, you can jump through clock towers and ride on the rooftops of houses. Some of the courses take you underground through caves and subway tunnels, others drag you through wooded areas and over narrow bridges. The trick to successfully navigating each course is to figure out the best rider/board combo and practice, practice, practice! Not all of the courses are built for straight, downhill, bomb-til-you-die type of riding, so you're not always going to be riding an Alpine board. Some of them have sharp zig zag turns that an all-mountain board is better suited to. Others have more bumps and jumps that would make a freestyle board scream out in pure joy.
Match mode was fun. It has a lot of options that you can tweak to make it work for you. The two main match modes are Batttle Mode and Free Race. Battle Mode gives you a couple of ways to activly distract and hinder your opponent while boosting your own performance. Line Versus is one game under battle mode. The screen is split either horizontally or vertically, and by doing cool tricks, you can shove the line towards your opponent, making his viewing area smaller. The first person to finish the track or shut out their competitor's viewing area wins. The other game on battle mode is Trick Boost. By doing tricks, you get booster points that you can use to give your snowboarder an extra boost of speed. Aside from Battle Mode, you can also play a straight race that pits you against your friend and scores on time, trick points or total points.
Unfortunately, there were a few things about the game the disappointed me, and some that just struck me as strange. First of all, the "Guard" button allows you plow your little boarder through any obstacle, including snowmen, logs, sheep, huge boulders and fallen pillars. I thought this feature was pretty cheezy, and I rarely used it. I felt like a better snowboarder by going around the obstacles instead of brute forcing my way through them. So call me stubborn. Another thing that let me down about the game was the lack of a "Grind" button. As I mentioned above, there's plenty of obstacles, and it would be great to be able to pull a rail slide on a fallen log, or bonk a snowman as you pass it. I think that the game could've been five-star material if they'd changed the guard button to a grind button. The last thing that really freaked me out about the game was the way that levels were gained. The instruction manual said that you needed to complete each course wit!h a good ranking to be able to move on to the next course. This wasn't the case at all. After I completed course 1 for the first time, I was given course 2. Course 2 proved to be a challenge, so I went back to practice on course 1 again. This time, I beat my old score and it awarded me course 3 and a new board! Curious about it, I kept playing course 1, and every time I would beat my own high score, it gave me a new course. Before no time, I was very good at course 1 and had ALL 5 courses open to play! I don't know if this is a bug in the game that slipped through the cracks at UEP or if they think it's a way of letting beginner players get a taste of the more advanced tracks? At any rate, I felt somewhat cheated out of the satisfaction of completing each course before the next was available to me.
But I dont want to end on a sour note, I'd like to point out a few of the small features in the game that add to the fun. I was very impressed with the attention to detail. Each rider has a slightly different riding stance and the stance changes from board to board. When riding a freestyle board, your stance will be almost zeroed out. An alpine board on the other hand will give you a very angled stance. Freestyle and all mountain boards are much easier to ride fakie on than an alpine board, which is slowed down quite a bit by riding backwards. Powder lies on the sidelines of the main tracks and slows you down a little bit; your rider's feet even get covered in some of the deeper powder. The replay feature allows you to watch your last run from several different camera angles. While you're watching it, you can see the trail that your board leaves and even the expression on your rider's face.
Overall, I had a lot of fun with Rippin' Riders. The graphics were phenomenal, the play control was good, the courses were fun, the halfpipe was really cool and the soundtrack was decent. The game kept me interested in it for quite a while and the hidden tracks, boards and characters were definitely a plus. Aside from the guard and grind problem, I didn't have any major complaints about it.