February 12, 2004

Arctic Tedium

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As if Libe Slope on a cold winter’s night wasn’t bad enough, DAZE has me reviewing simulated frigid death sports in the form of Nintendo’s 1080 Avalanche for the GameCube. Yet, as a grad finishing my dissertation on Holderlin’s philosophiae regarding the nano-fabrication processes of GameCube snowboarding games, I feel compelled to critique this mere trifle. I must confess that although I’m at the forefront of my field, my last practical experience with video games was Donkey Kong for the NES. So when my editor delivered the GameCube, I was perplexed by the device’s independence from vacuum tubes and punch-card slots. After perusing a periodical titled “On the Applications of Alpha + Alpha Gaming Theory,” I succeeded in creating a voltage drop across the CPU, getting visual read-out, and priming the lever-buttons on the display modification apparatus.

The introductory cinematic sequence starts the game off strong with a fast pace, cool tricks, and tight transitions, but it all goes downhill (pun intended!) from there. Locks on the good boards and the absence of a memory card made the game as accessible to the casual player as polo. Courses offer little in the way of solid game play, as after one or two run-thrus I quickly lost interest and returned to my marbles and hoola-hoops. Beyond the clear-cut goal of finishing in the shortest time, no substantial “extras” occur in gameplay. There are the standard grind poles and lengths of slope that can be used as half-pipes, but I bet even the Catholic Church has those. For a Nintendo product, the controls are atypically awkward, making players twirl their joystick to regain balance. Bad memories from boy scouts all over again. There are stunt courses too, but they all seem like masturbation compared to, well, uh . . . masturbation.

Some features are worth noting for their novel, yet ultimately unsatisfactory, presentation. For instance, you can board through bars and restaurants and launch over roofs! Yeah, so you get the point. There are in-game catastrophes which include cave-ins, instances of rapid forming stalactites/stalagmites, mysterious mountain tremors, unexpected detours through factories and military installations harboring heavy machinery and every other nightmarish manifestation of technology, variable weather conditions, and Man’s oldest nemesis . . . gravity! Yet they all fall short of the frozen deluge vortex suggested by the title. I never witnessed any avalanches in the game, only fallen trees insinuating that they may have occurred.

From my undergraduate research, I gather that gamers these days demand multimedia capabilities from their games. 1080 Avalanche replies with a selection of D-grade emo, grunge, and techno tracks that can be played whilst on the slopes. There’s also multiplayer and LAN games for those who dare not tackle the virtual mountain alone. Personally, I was not satisfied with these extras and augmented the game by reading a Braille version of On the Road with my toe and hiring a stripper to perform as I played.

1080 Avalanche does a great job promoting the stereotypes of snowboarding and boarders: death-defiance, hatred towards skiers and wildlife, no-fear attitudes, and their image as avaricious baby-eaters. Normally I would say stereotypes are a bad thing, but let’s be honest: do we really want to know how actual snowboarders think/act/feel? According to the game’s manual, my favorite character, Rob Haywood, is described as “a leader with an attitude. He’s easily upset when things don’t go his way.” If I found out he writes poetry in his spare time to his girlfriend of three years that he met while temping at an orphanage, I’d never play as him again. Is it too much to ask for a stoned moron snowboarder in a game? The world is in terrible shape when a video game needs characterization. All in all, I give it a rating of 1,000 lira!

Archived article by Chris Kakovitch