N64 fans have been waiting more than two years for a successor to Nintendo's 1080 Snowboarding. Southpeak Interactive's Big Mountain 2000, with its mixture of lengthy courses, skiing, snowboarding, and cool tricks, aims to be what fans of snow sports are looking for. Unfortunately, despite a decent feature set and a few good gameplay ideas, the game misses the mark by a long shot. Still, someone out there must be itching to play something other than 1080. If you're one of those people, Big Mountain 2000 may ease your cravings.
Once you power on the game, you'll notice that championship, time attack, and two-player competition are your only options. Don't fret - every mode allows access to all three of the game's courses, each of which is more difficult than the last. If you manage to complete the free ride, slalom, and giant slalom in the championship mode for each stage, a fourth stage can be unlocked. Big Mountain 2000's main hook may be its inclusion of both snowboarding and skiing, but it's also cool to note that either set of equipment may be used on the same set of courses. Within the game, six racers are at your disposal, each packing gear from the hottest names in snow sports, such as Salomon, Bonfire, and On-Yo-Ne. You'll definitely put your sponsorship to the test, because cunning stunts and fast times are your route to the rank of "Snow Speeder."
After choosing your game type, equipment, gear, stage, and race type, you get into the actual gameplay of Big Mountain 2000. Right off the bat, it's painfully apparent that there isn't much difference between the ski physics and the board physics. Tilt too far on either set of equipment and you'll fall down. Braking with skis even results in the same amount of deceleration as with a snowboard. Other than a slight alteration in trick timing, it doesn't matter what you choose - you're getting down that hill the same way, hopefully ahead of the other four racers. Speaking of hills, whoever designed the game's courses has been playing way too much Cool Boarders on the PlayStation, because each is just a downhill mess of uninspired jumps, caves, rivers, and trees. 1080 Snowboarding has nothing to fear from Big Mountain 2000's offerings.
Now that the glaring negatives are out of the way, it's nice to note that Big Mountain 2000 does have a few positives going for it. Since the game is more of a racing game than a trick competition, the sense of speed and adrenaline is immense. It also has the best tilt mechanics of any snowboarding title to date, in that you can't just lean your body flush with the horizon every chance you get. No sir. An onscreen balance meter warns you if you're heading for a fall, and you must either slow down or veer up an opposing slope if you begin to lean too much. Another of the game's plusses is its trick system. Similar to Cool Boarders, tricks aid your rise to the top, but they don't cement it. Performing a series of insane tricks is as easy as timed presses of the B button and analog stick. Unlike so many other games in the genre, Big Mountain 2000 provides leeway for both the racing fan and the daredevil.
Of course, when a boarding/skiing game lacks solid gameplay, it usually relies upon gorgeous visuals to make the experience worth living. Unfortunately, while its audio offerings happen to be a smidge in the "good" range, Big Mountain 2000 disappoints in terms of visuals. For some reason, developer Imagineer manages to replicate the exact visual appearance of the PlayStation version of Cool Boarders 2. True, it's obviously not the same engine or the same game, but with similar texture seam problems, polygon dropout issues, and poor transparency effects, one does have to wonder. On the upside, the game moves fast, even in the two-player split-screen mode.
If you're a fan of snowboarding games or desire a skiing game, Big Mountain 2000 may be worth your time, provided you don't require up-to-date visuals, clever courses, or hyper-real physics. The game may look dated and lack a backbone, but it is actually fun to play once you get into it.