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SSX Blur: Analyzing the controls

Zack Stern

With the Wii's focus on controls, how does a franchise like SSX handle the transition? Snowboarding -- and Wii-only SSX Blur -- lacks a direct relation to the Wii's motion sensitivity, but the game still translates to hand movements. The steering mechanic, which relies on Nunchuk twists, fits well; it even seems like it had always been a part of SSX.

The tricks, however, are mixed; simple remote flicks feel like a gimmick, while drawing shapes for Ubertricks only works some of the time. Overall, the controls work well enough to keep me playing, but I sometimes stop in frustration after consecutive, unrecognized moves.

As far as graphics, sound, and other review standards, those all hold up in Blur, but aren't my focus in this analysis. (Look up scored reviews for other opinions.) Instead, I'll further explain how Blur translates a thumbstick-and-button game into a tilt-and-flail experience.

Gallery: SSX Blur | 30 Photos

I've been playing Blur since its release, unlocking all of the runs and many of the game's extra features. The steering controls feel natural; I just gently roll the Nunchuk to turn and push the thumbstick for a little extra movement. Blur lets users change the balance between the thumbstick and motion controls from being even to turning one up all the way and the other off. I ticked the default up slightly, emphasizing the motion while reducing the thumbstick.

Unlike basic steering, the tricks feel more detached from the game. Players flick the Remote in different directions to flip or twist. However, I often feel like I'm swinging the WIi Remote randomly for these basic moves; Remote flailing may be the successor to button mashing.

The precise Ubertricks -- which require drawing certain shapes with just the Remote or both controllers together -- sometimes work well and sometimes don't. I like the challenge of drawing hearts and loops in the air because it feels like an accomplishment when performed properly. (People who don't like drawing hearts in the air might as well eat kittens.) These shapes are far from the random flailing sense of normal flips and spins.

But even after many hours with the game, the Ubertrick recognition still feels too loose. Sometimes, I can't do a single trick after many successive attempts. Thankfully, Blur lets players practice these finicky tricks whenever paused, so I can re-learn them even in the middle of a run. Other times, the game credits me for a different Ubertrick that has similar shapes as the one I'm trying to perform. Maybe it thinks I'm close enough, and it wants to keep encouraging my spastic gestures.

Blur's gesture recognition is usually close, but it has enough disparity between my motions and its response to sometimes be frustrating. I still have fun playing Blur -- the physicality of the Wii complements action sports -- but it's a game I recommend with caveats. Hopefully the gesture recognition will be tuned in future games and isn't a hardware limitation of the Wii.

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