Video Game Review: SSX Blur for the Nintendo Wii

Well if you have played one of the older SSX games you may see this as a disappointment. Those new to the series might find the oddball Wii controls charming, quirky, and not ineffective. Those who put themselves in traction with masterpieces like SSX Tricky and SSX 3, however, might find that the unpredictability of the new motion-sensing controls is more of a wipeout than anything else.
Like other games in the series, Blur eschews realism in favor of big tricks, big air and exaggerated characters. The cartoonish aspects of snowboarding have been taken even further than before, as EA has made the character and track designs friendlier and more colorful than ever before, and added abilities like the snowball throw, which replaces the option to punch other riders found in earlier titles.

Quite a few other elements have been altered as well, with the controls foremost among them. While you can still use a button to jump, the real jump mechanism is flipping the nunchuck upward. Turn the remote left or right to spin, and flip it up or down to execute a flip. Linking tricks relies upon a button press that ‘zeros out’ your movement. So the progression from one trick to another isn’t always as seamless as it’s been before, and you’ll have to think things out more ahead of time. A last-minute flip that was possible in SSX 3 is almost always a killer here.

Simply performing tricks isn’t as complicated as it sounds – you can just wave your arms around, after all. And the system seems neat at first, but it’s wildly inconsistent. Just try to replicate the same series of tricks three times in a row and you’ll see the difficulty in relying upon motion sensing to precisely link moves. Mastering Blur requires an almost Zen-like ability to hold your hands perfectly still unless setting a move in motion. It’s not impossible to pull off an incredible series of moves, but most of the time doing so feels entirely accidental.

Other changes will be more troublesome for returning players. Precise steering can be very difficult, as you’ll use a combination of analog stick movement and nunchuck tilt to steer. Once on a rail it’s easier to stay there, and to slide right onto another in the same line, but getting up there in the first place is tougher than it should be.

But nothing in Blur says ‘overly difficult’ like performing ubertricks. With the groove meter built up, the idea is to launch into the air, hold a button and then draw a shape with one or both halves of the controller. It’s easy enough to draw a ‘Z’ with the remote for one easy trick, but using the remote and nunchuck to draw a heart is more challenging, as is accurately sketching a shape that looks like a sideways ‘W’ with little loops added for extra difficulty.

EA has wrestled with the ubertrick system since it debuted in SSX Tricky, changing the way these massive moves work with every release. And while Tricky’s system required little more than mad button mashing, the over-emphasis on technique here goes over the line by requiring not only player skill, but the cooperation of a too fickle motion-sensing system.

At least when an ubertrick or any other big combo does work, there’s a real sense of elation. And players who can nail one of the game’s more difficult runs with a huge score will justifiably feel like they’ve achieved something. But should a game be as hardcore as the real actions it depicts? SSX has always been wonderful because it made over the top snowboarding accessible to anyone, not because it was so demanding that players had to learn entire new control systems just to compete.

We commend EA for not simply tacking on motion controls to an existing SSX title. But at the same time, Blur feels like it wasn’t the total tear down of the series it should have been. Many of the tracks and events have simply been lifted from earlier entries, and the controls aren’t reliable enough to consistently deliver the elation that characterized the best SSX titles. Overall I think this could have been done better seeing how it’s on the Wii, but it is always fun to play on the Wii.

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