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Free Pass For Shredding Snow
A free-to-play snowboarding MMO might have sounded a little far-fetched some five or six years ago, but given that the surge of free-to-play original games has come into the MMO scene as of late, I suppose most gamers won’t find this game all that surprising. However, the good part is that despite its free-to-play stigma, it’s actually an extremely well-rounded game that plays on par with EA Sports Big’s SSX Tricky series and that’s a darn good compliment for a game that doesn’t cost a dime to play.
My only complaint for the game is that it could have used a couple of more racing maps and a few more playable characters. But one can’t be too picky with a free-to-play title that actually has better gameplay mechanics than most other retail snowboarding games out there.
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Much like every other F2P (or free-to-play) MMO out there, gamers can expect lots of cash-shop generated items, a fair selection of players always ready to start a game, and a large series of tricks to unlock, earn and add to your boarder’s repertoire of snow-shredding skills.
Now considering that dicing snow against up to eight opponents in racing matches every so often could become boring, there’s a couple of game modes available that include coin collecting and a battle mode that sports team-based play. The additional modes and the level-based trick system adds a lot of diversity and interest for the game, especially considering that the more complex tricks players pull off the more turbo they receive, which in turn can help win more races. So the skill-based incentive tree works really well for a game like this, as there is a clear distinction between racing with low levels and racing with high levels.
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Graphics And Sound
The game makes use of some of the latest in lighting technology, including dynamic, realtime lighting, soft shadowing, and particle effects that are apparent every time a player’s snowboard makes contact with the snow. A few other graphical effects are put to use when activating power-ups, but other than that the main focal point of the visuals is on the stage designs and the stages are designed really well.
In addition to having extremely well-crafted tracks both geometrically and visually, the game sports a snazzy new-age soundtrack with funky beats, a few rock tunes and some groove melodies. The game shares a similitude of visual and audio aesthetics with EA Sports Big’s SSX Tricky, save it’s just not as over-the-top.
The only downside to the visuals is that the resolution isn’t quite as sharp as it could be, even with everything maxed out, but I’m assuming this was a technical design decision to maintain the game’s extremely fluent framerate. The only other minor issue I have is that the soundtrack is rather limited. Nevertheless, quality over quantity is still preferable in this case.
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I suppose the best way to compare the racing in Project Powder would be equivalent to oiling up one’s hand and running it across a buttery surface. To say that the game plays smooth is almost like understating just how easy it is to get into and get going in Project Powder. Much like Exteel or UpShift Strikeracer, this game has an extremely easy learning curve that only takes a few minutes to memorize and perhaps less than an hour to master. Yeah, it’s that easy.
I loved the way the tricks were setup and how simple it was to do combos, grabs, spins and flips just using ‘W’,’A’,’S’,’D’ and the arrow keys. It’s also kind of awesome that the designers just didn’t stick with a standard-fare set of racing tracks for this game. Yes, there are some simple downhill race tracks with various obstacles to avoid, including snowmobiles, fallen trees and hazardous cliffs. However, there are also fantasy-themed tracks that see players taking their snowboard to the desert, grinding up sand, dodging giant clams and swerving out of the way of cactuses.
The originality of the tracks don’t end with sand crabs, though, there are story-book tracks where the first three-quarters of the track is layered in grass, as well as a winter wonderland with Aztecan-esque ruins that players have to avoid all the while storming downhill and performing tricks.
I did run into a few problems when I got jammed on a rock and decided to fall off a cliff to reset myself, only to find that I fell for a long time, respawned and got jammed on a rock again and had the same thing happen again. This was a one-time encounter, though, and I never had any vertex split problems or falling through the ground after that.
The fun factors are extremely high in this game and the ease of gameplay for performing tricks, or utilizing power-ups in the Battle Mode make it an easy target for a four-out-five when it comes to the gameplay.
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PC gamers rarely get the pleasure of experiencing console-style racers, much less console-style snowboard racers. It’s nice that OutSpark is offering this free-to-play title to gamers out there who thrive on casually fun, arcade racing titles like Project Powder (i.e,. SnowBound Online). The additional game modes add an extra sense of replay and fun factors to the game, especially the team Battle Mode.
Gamers who enjoyed Jet Set Radio Future, SSX Tricky or Stoked, will easily find themselves having a blast with Project Powder. Despite the heavy clone-factors the game suffers from it’s still a visually appetizing game with a catchy soundtrack and expertly designed race tracks that provide hours of fun for casual and hardcore gamers.