I got a call from TWS, asking me to track down as many boarding games as I could and review them. Man, was that a great call. So, off I went to the center of game development in NorCal, made some appointments, and checked out the latest games for two days solid. Running from one company to the next gave me a case of shred jitters, but here’re a few basics and some tips from the ’98/99 season’s releases for snow and hoverboarding.

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First, I dropped by Psygnosis to check out a game called Psybadek for the PSX (PlayStation¿). This single-player hoverboard game is really a basic platform game, kind of like the Crash Bandicoot and Sonic genres. Begin by picking out a hero or heroine (Xako or Mia), and off you go, right into the jaws of death-flying around, collecting trick and force power-up items through five zones and about 50 levels of play-stomping, bopping, and just plain shooting all the bad guys while collecting all five Golden Ankhs needed to defeat the Gnarly Kracken. This bad boy has kidnapped your buddies and is holding them hostage. It’s up to you alone to rescue them from certain doom by gathering up all the weapons you can find, like magnetic mines, tow weapons, snowballer bombs, Dek stunt weapons, and the Stomp, plus a lot more hidden ones.

Traveling back and forth between locations in the teleporter is easy, but watch out when you use a Wormhole-it’s a one way E-ticket. There is ample room to roam in all the zones. Find the pool snakerun, do a 50/50 board slide and nose or tail bonks on the fence railings. Make sure to gather the Dark powers along with the Dek charges and Jump Jets throughout because the force alone won’t save your butt from the Bosses-some of which have hilarious moves. Vans is a major sponsor for this game, so look for their banners. You’ll like this game if you you’re into Parappa the Rapper and its techno/rap soundtrack pumping behind your quest for fun and victory.

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Next, I checked out ASCII Entertainment’s newest game, Airboardin’ USA. This futuristic hoverboard game for the N64 has fluid motion and all the antics of skate and snowboarding without the surface contact. You have a choice of eight selectable players-four of which are earned after meeting special requirements by competing on certain levels. The trick index has good variety, and it’s pretty impressive to do a ho-ho on top of a nine-story building, but there is still room for improvement.

The play modes are broken down-I recommend Practice for everyone so you can tune into the flow while mastering the board. Once mastered, move on to the Street, Time Attack, or the Coin mode, where you have to collect all the coins in order to advance to the next area. Airboardin’ USA is two-player and Rumblepak compatible, enabling players to feel the body-jarring landings after dropping off the roof of a building. There are eight or nine boards to choose from, including an Alpine hoverplank-type board. Pick from a crew of six riders, who each have their own special moves that earn extra points.

The courses are big, with freedom to go anywhere and do just about any trick you can think of while skimming along over snow, water, and land, through woods and cities, and over, around, and through buildings and halfpipes. Props to TomatoHead Records, whose cool alternative/ska/rasta soundtrack moves and grooves ya while you’re terrorizing the downtown area.

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Accolade brings us Big Air, a two-player snowboarding game for the PSX. This cool boarding game includes a lot of branching trails and gulleys, the addition of bigger areas, and more variety on the courses. Most of the trails are the width of the screen, so there is plenty of room to maneuver between all the obstacles.

Start by visiting the Shop and picking out a board from Palmer, Ride, Morrow, Joyride, or Arbor, then suit up with gear from Westbeach or Wave Rave. Hit the slopes to compete in the Pipe, Big Air, Slalom, Freere, and of course, Boardercross sections. Competitions and collecting points enables you to travel to other countries, including Scotland, Switzerland, Germany, Japan, Canada, and the good ol’ U.S.A. Gaining enough points at each contest and country puts you up against the reigning god of boardercross, Shaun Palmer himself. It’s not easy to beat the Palm-he’s sneaky, sly, and just might show you what a close-up look at tree bark is all about.

The graphics and 3-D environments look pretty good, and most of the riders have their own signature moves. There is plenty of variety with a couple hundred tricks and grabs, including all the cork combo moves and even one trick that looked really close to a Michalhuck move. For the racers in the audience, there is even a Slalom section (sorry Hoss and Fuzzy!) No, Todd didn’t make it into this game-he’ll pop in later down the page. The soundtrack features eleven different punk, ska, and alternative bands.

Accolade has pushed back the release to January of ’99 so they can tweak the game even more. Also, for all you PC game junkies, sometime before June a PC version should be available that is even better then the PSX game.

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Day two began at 989 Studios (formerly Sony Interactive Studios) for the latest release of Coolboarders 3 for PSX. 989 Studios brought in an entirely new development team to build a bigger, better Coolboarders. This version is a step up from last year’s game, with over 32 new courses and a lot more trail branchings, allowing boarding in every condition imaginable. Compete at five big-mountain areas and shred down the Pipe, Boardercross, Slalom, Downhill (yeah, the Alpiners get some more to do), Big Air (Triple Big Air), and of course, Slopestyle at each mountain. Added new this year is a meter for tricks. A white bar runs from red (low) to green (max), telling you when you’re maxed out and can go huge. This gives you more spins and bigger flips, hucks, and rodeos.

The button configurations are a lot simpler this time around. Steer with the X button pushed in and it’s easier to wander around and use the terrain. The trick index is enlarged for more tricks and combos. There are twenty boarders to choose from, all with different abilities and specialized moves. It gets really intense in two-player mode, so go all out.

There are over 23 boards-all ’99 models-from companies such as Burton, Ride, and even one board from Swatch (we know what that one’s for!) There are different boards for freestyle, Alpine, and all-around mountain riding. Graphically, the terrain looks much smoother and cleaner than last year’s, and the pipes look more realistic-not like angular concrete. The frame rate looks like it also got a tune-up allowing for better speed and control. Oh yeah, try out this game with the DualShock Controller for more feeling on those checks. Lastly, try and find the two hidden courses, Avalanche and Tree Run. They drove me nuts trying to finish without getting splattered all over the scenery.

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My last stop was over at Radical Entertainment to check out a game called X-Games Pro Boarder. This game is under the brand ESPN Digital Games, licensed to Radical by Walt Disney Co. There are two versions, PSX two-player and PC one to eight player. X-Games Pro Boarder is exactly what it sounds like-eXtreme snowboarding in your living room or on your PC, at its best and craziest.

There are nine levels on Mt. X, four from the X-Games, Halfpipe, Boarder-X, Slopestyle, and Big Air. The others consist of I-70 Road Jump, Mt. Baker Gap Jump, the Super-Pipe (night riding in a huge spine pipe), or freeriding on the Midnite Xpress. The trick index is touted as having over 2,000 tricks and combo moves, but I’ve only hit a couple hundred and still trying.

For gear, companies such as K2, Salomon, Morrow, Sims, Airwalk, Forum, Four Square, Sessions, Special Blend, and of course Volcom supplied all the latest ’99 boards and accessories. Now as to who’s in the game, you can pick and ride as one of eight of your favorite riders or compete against them, too. Try out Terje Haakonsen, Daniel Franck, Todd Richards, Jamie Lynn, Shannon Dunn, Tina Basich, Morgan LaFonte, or Peter Line. All the riders were involved with making sure their own tricks and riding style made it into the game. They actually look and ride like who they are! Try Terje or Peter on the I-70 or Mt. Baker Gap and see just how big you can go.

Start in Am mode to learn all the basics (just like you did out on the hill), then when you’ve got all three-button combos down, switch over to Pro mode and go for the six-button tricks. If you find all 2,000 tricks and moves, let me know (and keep a list). Try freeriding; there are no out of bounds in this game-just go where you want and ride everything in sight. How about a switch 900 rodeo to rail slide on the roof of some local’s motorhome? There are lots of shortcuts. What a concept! Now, as to the tunes in this game, there are tracks from Chixdiggit, Rancid, NOFX, Lunatic Calm, the Foo Fighters and more. It might take you all season to finish this game, so you’d better start now!

That’s it from the Dreddfile. There are a lot games coming, and every platform has got something cool in the ol’ Christmas stocking this year, so why not just get them all!-The Dreddmannow as to who’s in the game, you can pick and ride as one of eight of your favorite riders or compete against them, too. Try out Terje Haakonsen, Daniel Franck, Todd Richards, Jamie Lynn, Shannon Dunn, Tina Basich, Morgan LaFonte, or Peter Line. All the riders were involved with making sure their own tricks and riding style made it into the game. They actually look and ride like who they are! Try Terje or Peter on the I-70 or Mt. Baker Gap and see just how big you can go.

Start in Am mode to learn all the basics (just like you did out on the hill), then when you’ve got all three-button combos down, switch over to Pro mode and go for the six-button tricks. If you find all 2,000 tricks and moves, let me know (and keep a list). Try freeriding; there are no out of bounds in this game-just go where you want and ride everything in sight. How about a switch 900 rodeo to rail slide on the roof of some local’s motorhome? There are lots of shortcuts. What a concept! Now, as to the tunes in this game, there are tracks from Chixdiggit, Rancid, NOFX, Lunatic Calm, the Foo Fighters and more. It might take you all season to finish this game, so you’d better start now!

That’s it from the Dreddfile. There are a lot games coming, and every platform has got something cool in the ol’ Christmas stocking this year, so why not just get them all!-The Dreddmann