Polaris SnoCross Preview

Vatical Entertainment is preparing to offer N64 and PlayStation owners another option for their mountainous gaming dollar - the snowmobile extravaganza Polaris SnoCross.

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In a time when snow-based racing titles are ubiquitous, some companies are willing to try new things. Sled Storm and Cool Boarders brought excitement to the slopes of the PlayStation, while Snowboard Kids and 1080° Snowboarding tickled the fancy of many an N64 owner. Seeing the need for greater diversity, Vatical Entertainment is preparing to offer N64 and PlayStation owners another option for their mountainous gaming dollar - the snowmobile extravaganza Polaris SnoCross.

Containing the official license of Polaris Industries, a world leader in snowmobile manufacturing and sales, Polaris SnoCross brings a lot to the table. Initially, 16 sleds will be available. There are ten courses spread across three leagues (difficulty levels), as well as the usual time-trial, single-race, and tournament modes. Not content to deliver a solely arcade experience, Polaris SnoCross offers a variety of options for tweak fanatics such as tread and transmission choice. Success throughout the tournament mode will let you purchase further upgrades and modifications.

Polaris SnoCross will also include a number of innovative features for fun-loving arcade buffs, most notably tricks and sponsorship endorsements. Current information puts the number of tricks at 15, with such favorites as Nac-Nacs, Supermans, and the No-Hander at your disposal. Tricks may be chained together, increasing the chance that you'll obtain upgrades or company sponsorship at the end of the race. Indeed, one of the more innovative aspects of the game is the brand sponsorship, whereby companies such as Lynx and SnoBoss offer riches and equipment in exchange for displaying their logos.

Creating a standard racing title is old hat, but Polaris SnoCross will attempt originality in a variety of ways. First, every course - be it a short oval or cross-country mountain pass - contains a wide array of shortcuts and pitfalls. Veer into a ravine or take a lucky bounce over a snow bank and you might add precious seconds to your lead. The game was on display at this year's E3 in Los Angeles and, despite minor handling issues, played well. Control was responsive and tight, with just enough bounce to convey a realistic feeling of excitement. Akin to Excitebike 64, sled position can be altered in midair, giving you an added degree of control for solid landings and extended jumps.

Visually speaking, the game is currently a little rough - but the potential is already beginning to show. Riders are highly detailed and well animated, with their company logo uniforms constantly rippling and flowing in the wind. Sled models contain a high number of polygons, each looking visibly different from the rest. Course graphics, albeit incomplete, contain snowdrifts, plant life, and other geographical amenities. At E3, the game was around 80 percent complete, and Vatical promises it will be both refined and improved by the time of its release. N64 owners might also want to take note: The game supports the 4MB Expansion Pak.

Overall, if the team at Vicarious Visions irons out a few kinks and refines the visuals, Polaris SnoCross will be a solid title. With all of the features, gameplay elements, and two-player support, Vatical's offering should please even the most race-jaded gamer. Polaris SnoCross comes out for both the Nintendo 64 and PlayStation consoles this September.

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