Varying wildly from the home version, SSX On Tour is not the same game. This is a version of the series made strictly for the PSP. It’s easy to say this is the best handheld SSX yet, though when your other options are on the Game Boy Advance and N-Gage, that doesn’t say much.
Aside from the challenge structure and menu system (with the strange and goofy sketch-drawings), you won’t recognize anything if you played this on the other consoles. In fact, this barely even resembles SSX, and if it wasn’t for the simple to use trick system, you’d never know is was part of EA’s Big series. Part of that comes from the limited character creation; so barren it can barely be considered customization.
Unlike other moves the series has made, there are two plain boarders to choose from, and they level up stat categories as the game goes on. There’s no way for the player to increase areas of need themselves aside from gaining new boards or changing clothes. Apparently, wearing a new vest will increase your speed, but limit your cornering. New equipment is handed out by collecting stars on the courses (never fun) or winning events.
Progression is easily SSX On Tour’s most frustrating aspect. In order to open up what is a wide variety of events, you’ll need to earn gold medals (and only golds). To unlock the highest level of competition, you’ll need 50 events cleared, and you’ll need to place first in each. It begs the question of why they even bothered including bronze and silvers. Skiing and snowboarding are both open at the start, so there are two separate event trees, even if the difference is negligible.
The system of moving deeper into the game might not be such an issue if the on course action wasn’t a mess. These tracks are all new and not featured in any other version. The originality is appreciated, at least until you randomly wipe out, fall through the course, find an out of bounds line that doesn’t look like one, miss a single trick and lose all momentum in a half pipe, or get trapped behind an object for the fifth time. The signs all point to a rushed product, something that is becoming more common from EA.
Other problems should be evident immediately for SSX veterans. The trick system, which relied entirely upon the four shoulder buttons of the PS2, has been compromised given the hardware. Grabs have been assigned to three of the face buttons, and tweaking is handled with the R trigger. The opposite shoulder button handles the higher level tricks. It’s a fair compromise, except for the square button that doubles as a speed boost and grab. Tap the button a split second before landing fully in an attempt to use boost and you’ll perform a grab, instantly wiping out.
Going back to SSX Tricky, punching has returned, and its focus is obvious. You’ll definitely need to cause a few accidents to complete the races, though without the wild course design of the first two games (it’s desperately calling out for some color and fireworks, even if the realistic look is stunning for a handheld), it feels out of place. There was no need for the limited fighting action to return.
All that means though is that this becomes a game of style over gameplay. The pieces are here, but the engine is littered with bugs and the hardware design causes issues. It’s nice to see a new dedicated game on the console that needs software (aside from straight ports) so desperately. SSX On Tour is not the game to make that save.
SSX On Tour is a rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB. This game can also be found on: GameCube, PS2, and Xbox.
(** out of *****)