Retro Monday – “AirBlade”

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Title: “AirBlade

Developer: Criterion Games

Publisher: Sony CEE (EU),

Namco (US)

Released: November 2001 (EU)

January 2002 (US)

AirBlade” was one of the first games I played on the PlayStation 2 when I first got it way back in the years of yore. I had played “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater” (the games more obvious influences) on the PlayStation 1 previously and loved it so I got “AirBlade” first chance I could. After I played the 1 level demo. And After I could afford it. And find it. There was no internet downloading then. And I didn’t get many PS2 games early on. Had to prove the investment was worth it before spending even more money on it.

As I said before, the most obvious influence for the games conception was the ‘Tony Hawk’s‘ series. You play as Ethan, late 90’s “wooh, dude. Radical!” extraordinaire who happens to be a skater. So when his friend Oscar ‘takes’ (meaning ‘steals’ but he made it leaving it in the same legal ambiguity as Wesker and the T-Virus) the ‘AirBlade‘, a prototype hover-board from the standard evil corp called this time GCP. After GCP kidnaps Oscar, Ethan and his woman friend Kat, the hacker (A.K.A. The exposition person) take the AirBlade to fight the man etcetera, etcetera. The plot is something we have tread many times before. The Wesker reference is more apt now doesn’t it?

The skating aspect of the game comes in the form of the challenges that you have to do in the ‘Tony Hawk‘ patented 2 minute time limit. This varies from jumping over stuff, hitting stuff and grinding stuff. And that’s it. One thing that the developers said in the making of was that they wanted the experience to as close to riding a hover-board as possible. So all you can to is hit/break stuff by doing a flip trick into it or by spinning/grabbing it. Or you could break it by grinding on it, or as it is other wise know as getting from point to pint in the later part of the game. That’s the one skill you have to master when playing the game. At first the levels are built around the idea of hight = progress. The penultimate level is otherwise built on a tram system that connects buildings and office floors were when you fall off you plummet into the clouds, die and have to start the level again. The jumping in to or over thing is the rarest of challenges as it means not hitting anything. Its usually how you leave each level only. So my tag-line for the game will be ““AirBlade” A game where you hit things with a hover-board.

For a game built around what essentially skating, Ethan has a limited repertoire of tricks. Really small. By the end of the first level you could of seen the whole selection. They spent a lot of time on the physics of the game though. Like the the inability to stop on a hover-board (which is what would happen if your on a hover-board) and the fact that you can do flip tricks with out jumping because your already 2 feet off the floor. It just makes the mechanics of the game look great but makes playing it a bit boring.

The levels are well designed. Like I said before, the levels are built on hight = progress or hight = better. To compare that with Pro Skater, that wasn’t a design thought until “Underground” years later. They vary well, starting off on the streets, then in a secret base, skyscrapers and running from an exploding skyscraper in the usual “running while things explode around you” way. That may sounds dramatic for a finale but this was the early 2000’s. It wasn’t that impressive. Although I takes the skills you have used in the rest of the game to do well to as a finale its fitting and well thought out.

To end, why not compare it to the interminable beast that it has been compared to throughout this review, ‘Tony Hawk’s’. “AirBlade” come out between “Pro Skater 3” and “Pro Skater 4” if you trying to place the timeline. The gameplay is an even split, edging to ‘Pro Skater‘. “AirBlade” has the movement and style but ‘Pro Skater‘ has more levels and more tricks so one point each. Story goes to “AirBlade” because it has one so another point to them. Graphics are an even split again, edging to ‘Pro Skater‘. The graphics for ‘Pro Skater 4‘ trounce “AirBlade” but that came out months later so no points there. The soundtrack goes to ‘Pro Skater‘ for having licensed songs. I really liked the music for “AirBlade”. I really fit it the genre that I still like. But licensed beats specially made music. Sorry who ever composed “AirBlade”. Then there is the big category, ‘fun playing’. Even split really. “AirBlade” is silly 90’s sci-fi skating while ‘Pro Skater‘ is more realistic skating. So depends when you want from a skating game.

So as a final tally, its a win for ‘Pro Skater‘, 3 to 1. But its pretty much just what you want from a skating game. Late 90’s sci-fi or realistic professionals. I’m just glad that I got to play both because their both great.

Retro Score: 4/5

Modern Score: 3/5

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