One of the best arcade games to come out in the last couple of years was Namco's Alpine Racer. It was the greatest skiing game since US Ski Team Skiing for the old Intellivision. Luckily for home gamers and snowboarder fans alike, that old excitement and action come alive again on the Playstaion with Cool Boarders. More than a great snowboarding game, it's a pretty good racer as well.
Cool Boarders offers three downhill tracks (beginner, intermediate, and expert). The skill levels vary in both terrain and trick type. The beginner level allows neophytes to start off easy and learn basic control and speed variations. The intermediate and expert levels allow boarders to take command of an arsenal of tricks via button and joypad combinations. Players who score fast times on the first three courses get a second set of tracks for more gnarly fun.
Although lots of options can be an annoyance in some racing games, Cool Boarders' selection of board types allows players to explore a wide range of racing styles. All-around boards are great for beginners, freestyle boards are maneuverable but slow, and alpine boards provide hair-raising rides straight down the mountain. The programmers would have done well, however, to leave out the too-numerous color choices for boards - while shredding the slopes, players won't care if they're riding the neon green board or the blue one.
The only problem with Cool Boarders is with its terrain recognition. Hit a wall and the player ricochets like a pinball; get stuck between two trees and endure a frustrating struggle to get out. The programmers would have also done well to heed an important aspect of real snowboarding - the terrain does not completely control you. I kept wishing for more places to go off-course and use the sides of the track for freestyle tricks. Maybe in Cool Boarders II?...