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Joystiq hands-on: SSX Blur (Wii)

Zack Stern

The Wii Remote should be great for certain sports titles: tennis, golf, baseball, and other swinging games. But I've been skeptical about how the console will handle lower-body games, like soccer and snowboarding. Some recent play-time with Wii-only SSX Blur made me look forward to at least snowboarding; the controls felt more fluid than a gamepad. In my limited time with Blur, all of the movements -- even heart drawing and flicking up to jump -- added to the experience.

SSX Blur's look and style reminded me of SSX 3 in a good way. The 12 runs on the mountain are taken from previous SSX games, including that title, with a few new additions. 10 characters from the series are back, with two new snowboarders. EA says that many of the modes from SSX 3 that were absent from SSX On Tour, like tricks on half-pipes, also return.

One of my biggest reliefs about Blur, at least in my initial look, is that the colorful graphics look good on the Wii. The areas I saw mixed subtle effects -- like snow falling into view -- with an animated rider look; Blur chooses style over realism, which serves it well on the Wii. And the 480p widescreen setting kept things bright and big.

My other relief was that the controls felt natural and fun, making turns by gently rolling the Nunchuk in my left hand. I was supposed to push the analog stick for additional, subtle corrections, but it never seemed to do anything; EA said that it works best for correcting position on rails or other tiny changes. I thought I was too cool to twitch the Nunchuk up to jump -- I told myself that I would just push A -- but the Nunchuk jumps felt intuitive. I was a flailing Wii dork in moments.

The Wiimote handles tricks. After launching into the air, I flicked the Wiimote sideways to twist, or up or down to flip. Like previous SSX games, completing smaller tricks charges the "groove meter," so-named because, according to game designer Nicolas Guerin, Blur is a throwback to the trance-like sense of music and calm attitude from the earlier titles. He even compared this to Rez, but it was hard for me to judge the music in my short play session; I'll have to play more to see if it matches that goal.

When the groove meter was full enough, I executed even more complicated uber tricks. After a jump, I held A, and gestured half of a heart pattern with each hand to unhinge my boot from the snowboard and otherwise mock nature. I tried to slash the Z pattern into the air for a different trick -- note to developers: Make a Wii Zorro game -- but I gave up after a couple attempts. The heart worked at least, so the others may be easier to create after practice.

I had no expectations for SSX Blur before I tried it, because I didn't think that motion-sensitive controls for a snowboarding game would work better than a gamepad. But in my brief time with the title, the Wiimote and Nunchuk felt more fun and responsive than a traditional controller. Will SSX Blur hold up to hours of play, or is it just a quick novelty? I'm leaning towards the former, but we'll find out with the game's February 27 release.

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