It is difficult to come up with new genres for games. Even when someone achieves the mental leap to a completely new idea, often the concept is just too new for the majority of the audience and receives a muted reception. So to avoid the unknown, it is much easier to mix tried and tested genres together to form a new type of game. After all, beating up endless hoards of thugs with a baseball bat worked in Double Dragon, so why shouldn't it work in 3D whilst on a snowboard?
Konami's Evolution Snowboarding is quite simple. The aim is to ride slopes whilst fighting with enemy riders and takes place over 8 levels, with 10 missions in each level. Only one rider is available at the start, along with 4 missions from the first level. Everything else has to be unlocked. Mission goals vary; get to the end of the course within a time limit, kill a certain amount of 'Boardroids' (the rather odd name given to 'the bad guys') before reaching the finish, collect a certain amount of items before reaching the finish, accrue a certain number of points before the finish and the end of level boss mission.
Throughout each mission, there are various items to aid you in your quest to beat the marauding killers. Weapons power up your attack effectiveness. A baseball bat in one hand and a chain in the other wield serious force and food replenishes energy lost if they attack successfully. Movie tapes unlock music videos and sponsor videos. If the rider falls, the weapons are dropped and it is back to punching and kicking (using X and B). Tricks can be performed to help boost your score on missions with a points goal, using the C-stick. Releasing A makes the rider jump for more height and to get onto rails, on which to grind using Y. Pulling back throws out the anchors and the L and R triggers kick the heels out to initiate a tighter turn. Holding Z builds a boost bar and releasing it before getting hit by an enemy gives a speed boost, needed to complete some of the timed missions.
At first, zipping down the slopes and doing some damage with a baseball bat is quite fun. The idea is fresh. Amusingly enough, the enemies explode when punched or kicked, and most of the time the game is very smooth and fast. However, after a few missions, the boss for the level appears and states his challenge, which consists entirely of killing him, usually taking only a few more kicks or punches than the standard characters. After dispensing with this very straightforward mission, the next level opens up, even though most of the missions on the first level are so far unplayed. In going back and playing through the other 5 or so missions on the first level, it becomes clear that they are mostly repetitions of the first few missions, with slightly more difficult goals. Disappointing. It is almost as if they saved you the embarrassment of having to play through some very similar missions by opening up the next level. Progress onto the second level and it's more of same in a different locale. And the next level. And the next. In fact, the amount of repetition in the game is criminal.
The levels themselves are varied enough, with different paths and hidden sections, accessible by grinding the correct rail or pulling off a long or high jump. But in the quest for variety, the developers seem to have forgotten fundamental aspects of snowboarding, such as the necessity for action to take place on snow. The rider quite happily makes turns on brick and stone covered tracks and makes a mockery of the whole concept of being on a snowboard. The view ahead is often restricted and there is little sense of wide open space. The game channels the rider down narrow tunnels channels that leave little room for experimentation or manoeuvring.
The trick system is entirely tacked on as an afterthought. It's dull and lifeless and brings virtually nothing to the game. There's not even a racing element. It's all about the violence. Just keep bashing the opposition through all the levels, and you will be ok. So, since the game is based almost entirely around the combat, it might have been prudent to make the combat challenging and exciting, but the developers passed on that one too. The amount of moves is strictly limited and at the end of the day, almost all enemies, including bosses, can be dispatched by just tapping punch a lot. The AI is dreadful. Easier enemies just glide near you and almost wait to be kicked into a puff of smoke. Harder ones just take 2 or 3 hits to finish off. Using the boost feature to try and escape harder characters is pointless because as soon as you boost, so do they. If you slow heavily, they hang around just up ahead and wait, since there is no incentive for them to reach the finish line before you.
There is a 2 player split screen duel mode, but options are severely limited and being set a goal of 'picking up more items than the opponent' does not really set the competitive juices flowing.
The game isn't all bad. Occasionally I got enthusiastic enough to really get into killing off a boss, but only if it beat me the first time. When the rider falls over, they roll and slide convincingly and just like in real life, if lucky, you can get back up and carry on while still sliding. The speed effect is quite fast, apart from some horrendous slowdown occasionally, which lasts for seconds at a time. And if mindless violence is your thing, there is a few hours of that to be had.
Evolution snowboarding takes everything that is good about snowboarding and sets it to one side. The normally chilled atmosphere (sic) is replaced by a raucous world of violence and mayhem, accompanied by equally raucous music and poor visuals. Snowboarding should be all about the thrill of going fast on snow, whilst having fun and a few laughs at failing to land tricks properly. In this game, however, it's all about killing enemies and boredom. Even the music is repetitive. Most snowboarders don't listen to tedious power-chord guitar bands, but Konami have chosen to only include bands where the singer screams into the microphone. Although the tunes might match the tone of the game, they do nothing to build the excitement and everything to jangle nerves. Roadrunner Records sponsors the game and you could be forgiven for thinking that the whole game is a promo vehicle for their acts. Slipknot might go down ok, because they show some imagination but the other tunes will just not appeal to enough people. Much like the whole of Evolution Snowboarding.
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