N-Gage Review: SSX Out of Bounds

It's easy to make the argument that graphics do not make a game great. However, it's games like SSX Out of Bounds that show how they can make a game terrible. The technical limitations destroy every ounce of Out of Bound's playability, and everything else shoved onto the tiny game card is for naught.

Mirroring SSX 3, players choose from a great roster of riders, already famous from previous console entries. They're stripped of their personalities here though, devoid of voices and barely distinguishable on the courses. The mountain peaks return for this portable N-gagement, and selecting each individual challenge is done from a menu. There is no single mountain to select each option, and it's probably better for it.

The variety of challenges put before the player are typical for the series, and varied enough to earn the game instant credibility. Racing is still what this EA Canada-developed title is about. The number of riders has been reduced to a sad four, and races become solitary experiences for players familiar with how the game is played. Trick challenges are always fun, and are arguably the best the game has to offer. It's depth that's disappointingly rare here on the N-Gage.

Littered with countless licensed songs (Jane's Addiction, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Black Eyed Peas, etc.), the setting for the game's over-the-top action is fantastic. Granted, it's tough to make out some of the songs with the compression and meager speaker of the phone, but it shows this was at least a semi-serious attempt at capturing the flavor of SSX. The controls keep the positive aspects moving.

Close to every button on the right side of the N-Gage is used to do tricks. When in the air, mashing your thumb over the entire section will be enough to perform even the most complicated maneuvers. It sounds bad, but in execution, it only allows you to get into the game quicker. Purists can work their magic with a little experience. You won't miss the Playstation 2's triggers on which the trick system was devised. Complications arise when buttons are used for multiple purposes (five acts as a boost and a trick) and can lead to unintended wipeouts. It's a problem that clears itself up with time.

Everything above is wonderful, and that's undeniable. What holds this rendition back are the awful, ugly, and impossible to find pretty graphics. The sad excuse for fireworks is only the beginning. Speed is what the game has always relied on, and taking that away utterly destroys the point of playing this. It's running on an uneven frame rate, and at its peak, it's not smooth at all (probably around 10-15 fps).

This polygonal nightmare affects the game every time is comes close to being successful. Jumping off ramps feels floaty, and it's hard to tell when you're about to make contact with the ground. That's assuming the ground is even there given the draw-in. The latter is so nasty it looks like there's a developer inside your system creating the courses as you go. Half of the time, even when you're boarding on a section, the textures won't even show up. Background objects are non-existent, and there's zero collision detection when running into a pipe or pole.

Without speed, a sense of style, or personality from its trademarked characters, Out of Bounds destroys itself on the N-Gage. SSX fans will be curious enough to try it and be happy to know it turned out better than the Game Boy Advance version of SSX Tricky, but that's it. This is a title that's impossible to like, and it's a shame a game with actual depth attaches itself to such a waste in the gameplay department.

(* out of *****)

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