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SSX Blur

Faster than a melting icecap, trickier than... erm, SSX Tricky. And the other ones

As you'll probably be aware if you're planning a real skiing holiday this year, global warming has pretty much put paid to the concept of sliding down a mountain with your knee ligaments strapped, via your feet, to a solid piece of wood.

Still, while you're picnicking in the balmy Alps, waiting for some bright spark to concrete over the daisy-speckled slopes and sell rollerblades to all those overheated holidaymakers, console yourself with the fact that you'll soon be able to fire up your Wii and indulge in a spot of nostalgia with EA's rather tremendous, completely over-the-top SSX Blur.

Being effectively a Wii-mix of a long-running and successful series that has already had umpteen outings on Nintendo hardware, there's every chance that you'll be familiar with large chunks of the gameplay and course design.

Out on tour
You've got three colossal mountains to explore, each with multiple branching routes that terminate, generally, in racing or stunting challenges. Scattered in and around these mountain hubs are secret areas containing collectable things and challengeable rivals. You ski or snowboard wherever you like, within reason, and take things as fast or slow as you please. Don't fancy the pressure of a full-on race? Simply weave your way to the bottom of the slopes at your leisure, searching for shortcuts and whatnot.

It's just like a real skiing trip except with faster lifts (otherwise known as loading pauses) and, of course, snow.

The major difference from all previous SSX titles is the use of the Wii's motion-sensing magic, and it's such a radical change that you can probably consider this a brand new experience regardless of how much SSX you've done in the past.

Gone are the simple thumbstick-and-button mechanics that have characterised this and every other snowbound game series. In their place, a radical new method involving tilting, shaking, waving and, at certain points, drawing patterns in a kind of gesture-recognition system.

If it sounds slightly complicated, just wait until you get your hands on it. We were the first people outside of EA's inner circle to actually play the game, and our first ten minutes or so were spent swerving wildly across the powder, bashing into walls, trees and gigantically avoidable boulders in an embarrassing display of gaming ineptitude. Oh dear, we thought.

But then, magically, it all clicked into place. The tutorial system is exceptional, quickly educating us beyond a level of mere competence and into a zone where we couldn't imagine how we ever convinced ourselves in the old days that moving a little nubbin with about one inch of play could equate to a realistic snowboarding experience. It's far, far better on Wii.

To steer down the mountain, you simply tilt the nunchuk - left and right to carve into the snow, forwards and backwards on the joystick to regulate your speed. Adding a bit of sideways on the stick makes you lean into hard turns or perform small adjustments if you're straight upright.

A slider in the options menu determines the balance between nunchuk and joystick movements, so it's possible to have the entire thing controlled by the motion sensor. Or you can switch to old-style controls if you can't get along with the new way.

Get your groove on
Even then, the use of the remote keeps it feeling unlike the SSX of old. When you launch into the air, via an upwards flick of the nunchuk, swishing the remote makes you do spins and flips. If you land the right way up, which is possible as long as you don't get swish-happy and attempt more flips than your altitude will allow, you get extra power added to your 'groove meter' - the giant yellow bar that dominates the right-hand side of the screen.

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