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Cool Boarders 2 Review Rewind


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On 12/24/2021 at 09:00 AM by Jamie Alston

It’s all downhill from here.
RECOMMENDATION:

After the gameplay innovations of snowboarding games that followed this one, it’s tough returning to Cool Boarders 2 with the same enthusiasm. Even hardcore nostalgic fans might struggle to love it.

In 1996, UEP Systems released Cool Boarders on the PlayStation. It was one of the few pioneers of snowboarding games on home consoles. The popularity of extreme sports was steadily gaining momentum in the United States, as were releases of snowboarding titles from other game developers. So it was only natural that UEP Systems would follow up in 1997 with their sequel, Cool Boarders 2.

This game was one of the first that my dad got for me after I successfully purchased the newly reduced-in-price DualShock PlayStation bundle with the money I scrimped and saved from doing house chores. Although I had a blast spending countless hours shredding down polygonal mountains back then, my recent playthrough has reminded me that time is a predator that stalks us all. And it absolutely mauled this game.

The game features multiple modes, including a new half-pipe mode where you perform as many tricks as possible on a half-pipe. There’s also a freestyle mode for those interested in practicing on the boardercross courses without the pressure of jockeying for first place. However, the competition mode is the game’s centerpiece which combines big air events (for racking up points) with boardercross races.

Overall, Cool Boarders 2 accurately recreates the fun of racing downhill. Courses are well-populated with buildings, trees, and occasional ramps for showing off your moves your high-flying moves. And you can’t help but notice the frequent product placement of Butterfinger candies on billboards and trucks as you pass by them. While I thoroughly enjoyed this game back in the day, it was mostly due to the fact that this was the best representation of snowboarding available at the time. And my, how times have changed.

Screenshots courtesy of https://psxdatacenter.com/

A significant issue is with the controls for doing aerial spins and flips- performed by pressing the jump button and holding down the direction you wish to rotate. The longer you hold that direction, the faster your rider will spin. Unfortunately, this pre-wind jump system prevents you from steering, which reduces your ability to properly align yourself with the ramp without crashing into walls or other barriers on the side.

Worst yet, you can’t adjust the momentum of your spin in mid-air. As a result, performing such maneuvers are a crapshoot since you can’t judge for sure how you’ll land. You just have to hope that you’re aligned correctly upon said landing. And more times than not, I wiped out spectacularly.

Performing grab tricks are done by entering button commands while airborne. It sounds easy on paper but can be frustrating when you’re trying to pull off a specific move. In addition, the game is picky with how it registers the timing of the button combinations, so it often leads to moments where you can’t quite perform whatever trick you want to do. And the only time that doing tricks even matter is during the big air events in the competition mode since trick points determine your starting position in the next race. But due to the inability to control your spin mid-jump, these competitions are a dicey affair at best.

Screenshots courtesy of https://psxdatacenter.com/

The boardercross course designs are okay but somewhat uninspired. The first course holds your hand a bit, mainly free of major hazards that can impede you. But from the 2nd course onward, you can expect sudden drop-offs, trees, and other obstacles to ruin your day if you aren’t careful. A few courses have secret paths you can discover, but nothing earth-shattering that will affect the race’s outcome.

In terms of difficulty, the competition mode feels uneven. You compete against seven other riders in each boardercross event. The kicker is that each race begins with a staggered start. It isn’t much of a problem if you start a race in the 2nd or 3rd place position where you’ll still have a fair shot at winning 1st place. But if you have the misfortune of starting in 5th place or worse, you’ll have minimal opportunity to catch up to the top three leaders, nor have much wiggle room for error.

Crashing into anything- be it a fixed object or another competitor- is often a nightmare since your character is slow to recover and resume racing. Worst case scenario, you’ll keep hitting the same object as the character tries to clear the hazard in front of them. I always got nervous any time I had to guide my rider through a gauntlet of trees since it’s all too easy to smack into a trunk and jeopardize the rest of the race.

Screenshots courtesy of https://psxdatacenter.com/

The visual presentation is pretty decent but suffers from black seams in the environment that frequently appear when carving a path down the mountain. While such blemishes weren’t uncommon in the PlayStation era, it’s especially abundant here and distracting to the point of almost taking me out of the experience. And it can sometimes be difficult to tell when you’re riding in a switch stance, which can happen when landing a trick or recovering from a collision. There’s no visual cue on the HUD to alert you to change back to your normal stance. So sometimes, you could be moving slower than you expected, unaware that you’re in the wrong posture, thereby costing you a better finishing position in the race.

There isn’t much variety between the selectable characters (four in total and a few unlockables). While they differ in performance stats, they do not have any unique moves. It’s a shame there’s no real incentive to play through the primary game mode with each character. Once you experiment initially and find the character that suits you best, you’re not likely to rotate between the others unless you just want the challenge of doing so.

To be clear, Cool Boarders 2 isn’t a bad game at its core. On the contrary, it was decent considering the lack of choices for extreme sports games available at the time. Despite the issues with the controls, you can still have an okay time with it so long as you don’t rely too much on performing tricks during the downhill racing events in the competition mode. But now that we’re on the other side of series like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and SSX, it’s hard to go back to Cool Boarders 2 for anything other than to scratch a nostalgic itch.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:


All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.


These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.


This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.


Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.


Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.


A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.


 

Comments

Cary Woodham

12/28/2021 at 01:50 AM

I never got into snowboard games, so I never played this one.  There is a snowboard game I really like, though.  Namco's We Ski and Snowboard on Wii is very good.  It's a follow up to We Ski and has a spinoff game in Go Vacation.  They all really make you feel like you're at a ski resort.  I recommend trying them if you can.

One snowboard game I never got to play, but would've liked to, is Snowboard Kids and its sequel on N64.  They were made by Atlus and I hear they're pretty good.

SanAndreas

12/29/2021 at 04:36 AM

1080 blew this game out of the water. It was a bit surprising that Shigeru Miyamoto would work on a realistic sports game.

My favorite 5th gen snowboarding game was probably "Snow Game", which was the name of the snowboarding minigame in Final Fantasy VII in the Gold Saucer. After awhile, you could have Tifa riding the snowboard instead of Cloud.

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