Fakie to backside Alleyoop 900 shifty. Frontside backflip lien air 540. Backside Indy Nosebone to tweak 1080... What does it all mean? It means that Sony's Cool Boarders 2 is an awesome snowboarding game and one of the best trick/stunt racing games since Uniracers for the Super Nintendo. It's also one of the most difficult.
You have your choice of five play modes. Freestyle mode sends you down a long track with tight turns, narrow passages, and a handful of jumps. Scoring is based on time, number of wipeouts, and tricks performed on the jumps. Halfpipe mode is one giant (you guessed it) halfpipe, allowing for dozens of attempts at pulling off the perfect alley-oop crippler 720. Scoring is entirely based on tricks. The Big Air mode is essentially like a ski jump with just one chance to go for maximum distance and rotation as well as throwing in as many grabs as you can before hitting the ground. In Competition mode, you perform against As or other players in split-screen mode through the three previous modes. Finally, the relaxing Board Park mode is unscored, with play similar to that of Freestyle mode, only with a much mellower track.
Control is incredibly difficult to master in Cool Boarders 2. Even a simple 180 involves getting up to speed and pointing at the correct angle if there's any kind of lip involved, holding the D-pad left or right, then pressing and holding the X-button, and finally releasing the button before the D-pad. Timing is essential. The longer you hold the two down, the more spin you get. If you add any interesting grabs, you must release them before touching down again, or you'll wipe out. Halfpipe mode is great for learning how to control the board as well as for learning tricks, since it has no obstacles and plenty of lip for jumping. Don't even think about racing down the Freestyle tracks before you've mastered a few moves. Otherwise, the occasional jumps will only frustrate you, and you won't catch any air. Once you've got a handle on dropping back in, you'll really start to enjoy the freedom the game provides. Huge hang times, 1080 degree spins with flips, and grabs that drastically alter your aerodynamics all combine to make flight over the alpine tree tops really feel like soaring.
Though the "boarders" themselves are choppy looking and suffer from a fair share of polygon dropout, the animations of the various tricks are quite smooth. Sometimes their smoothness is exaggerated, allowing for slow, lilting rotating tail grabs and extremely gradual backflips. These feel and look great and are a rewarding payoff for the 90 minutes most of the tricks take to learn. Many of the backgrounds are pretty sketchy looking, and the courses often have regularly spaced visible seams between the track's textures.
With its many modes of play and dozens of moves to master, Cool Boarders 2 is much better than the original. The simplicity of the Halfpipe mode alone is extremely addicting and offers hours of challenging "drops." Even if you dislike racing games or wince at the word "extreme," Cool Boarders 2 is recommended, especially to fans of other combo-driven gaming styles.