We’ve got a little something new this week as I’ve drafted in my buddy, Adam Yates, to tackle this week’s game tandem-0style. We’ve decided to go with Cool Boarders 2 seeing as we both have a copy of the game, and I’ve been looking to write about it for a while. As those of you who own a PS Classic will already know, Cool Boarders 2 actually managed to make it onto the exclusive list of games for Sony’s controversial mini-console. That must mean it’s a truly classic game in the PSX library if it made it onto the Classic, right? Well, let’s read on and find out.
What we’ll do is split this article into five different sections. First, we’ll go through our own personal memories of the Cool Boarders series. We’ll then give our thoughts on the gameplay, graphics, sound and longevity of Cool Boarders 2 before finishing on whether we’d choose to recommend it or not. If this is something you all enjoy, then I might drag Adam back to do it again. This is his first foray into writing, so please be nice!
Memories of the Series
Mike: I was always aware of the Cool Boarders series, and I’m sure I had a demo disc that had Cool Boarders 4 on it. I actually have memories of playing Cool Boarders 2 in the now dearly departed Toys R Us store in Stockport, and at the time I was certainly impressed because I still only had a Super Nintendo at home. Of all the games in the series, Cool Boarders 2 is always the one I tend to think of first, and I think the game itself exists quite well as a time capsule for the era it was released in, which I’ll get into more detail on later in the article.
Adam: I was a fan of the original Cool Boarders game on the PlayStation. I remember really wanting the game for quite a while after seeing it reviewed in a gaming magazine, but I could never find it in stock at any of the video game stores I visited. I eventually got a copy from a games fare I visited at Bowlers Exhibition Centre in Manchester; I remember rushing home and putting the disc in the console, excited to play it.
Adam: This was the first time I’d played Cool Boarders 2, having only ever previously played the first game in the series; however, the controls and gameplay immediately felt familiar. I do find the controls to feel quite stiff at times as taking fast corners and turns can sometimes feel like you’re controlling a tank rather than a snowboarder! Performing tricks can be difficult also, and it took me a few plays to work out that you have to hold the direction on the D-pad that you intend to flip as you are approaching a jump. If done correctly, then your boarder will perform an impressive somersault or backflip in the direction you choose. It takes a bit of getting used to, and I found it hard to land correctly most of the time, but the game is still quite fun, and performing tricks and flips can be quite satisfying when you manage to land them properly.
Mike: Cool Boarders 2 has two main aspects to its single-player campaign, with one part being snowboarding races, whilst the other centres around performing jumps and completing tricks to score points. The pause menus in the game even have button combinations for particular tricks with a picture of a real life boarder performing it. The racing aspect of Cool Boarders 2 can be quite fun, with square acting almost as a brake that slows you down and makes it easier to complete sharp turns, whilst holding down on the D-pad will cause your boarder to crouch and speed up, which can be handy during the sections of the course where you have some uninterrupted downhill boarding to perform.
Sadly, where you start on the grid in the races is based on how well you do in the jumping competition, which is overly difficult due to really stiff and unresponsive controls. Getting any sort of rotation for a 180 or 360 trick is like trying to park a fully loaded 18-wheeler sometimes, and the timing on the tricks is so finicky that trying to chain multiple tricks together is an exercise in frustration. Compared with a game like Tony Hawk, where chaining multiple tricks together is far more fluid and smooth, the trick system in Cool Boarders 2 feels like a creaking door in desperate need of some grease. I would have much preferred an option where you could do a time trial race instead, with that deciding where you started in the upcoming race.
Mike: Cool Boarders 2 shows its age somewhat these days, with blocky character models and fuzzy visuals. Sometimes I found that lines showed up on the scenery, especially when going through a tunnel. That being said, the graphics aren’t that bad for a game that’s getting ever closer to being 25 years old, especially as Cool Boarders 2 came out before a period where most developers were capable of getting the absolute best out of the PSX yet. I also found the courses themselves to be pretty well designed for the most part, which made up for the fact that they sometimes weren’t especially easy on the eyes. Blocky though the characters are, they still have a decent amount of personality to them as well, so it’s not a washout from a visual perspective.
Adam: Although they are basic and blocky, the graphics aren’t bad for a game of this age. They do look a bit dated now when compared to one of the current gen consoles available, but at the time this was a visually impressive experience and is still pleasant enough to look at some 20+ years on.
Adam: (NTSC Version) I played the USA version of the game so Mike and I could compare differences. One of the main things that differ between this version and the PAL release is the soundtrack. The NTSC version I am playing has a much more generic rock soundtrack, with a lot of the music consisting of thrashing guitars and pounding drums. I found the music and commentary to be a bit “samey” after a while. I think the ambient background music of the PAL version was definitely an improvement and less distracting to its audience.
Mike: (PAL Version) From a music perspective, I really liked Cool Boarders 2, with the tracks that play on the menu screens and during races capturing that 90s feel with mostly pumping and ambient dance music blaring out of your speakers. If you’re even remotely nostalgic for that late 90s “sound”, then Cool Boarders 2’s soundtrack should tickle that itch pretty successfully. This differs from the more rock-orientated soundtrack of the NTSC version, with my personal opinion being the PAL tracks are better and suit the game more. So music-wise, the game is good, but sadly, an annoying announcer does his best to ruin it, with his Poochie-like, lame smack talk very quickly wearing thin. It’s what a room full of people in suits think “kewl” sounds like, and it’s bloody ear-stabbing at times.
Mike: You start out with three courses and can unlock an additional six through the single-player competition mode, along with some additional boarders to boot, so if you enjoy Cool Boarders 2’s gameplay loop, then there’s plenty of reason to keep chipping away at it in order to unlock everything. However, if the competition mode isn’t really your thing, then you might not feel like you have the patience to slog through it all, especially as you only get to save after every three courses, meaning that if you fail to complete course six, then the game will shunt you back down to course 4 to start all over again. It’s such an annoying and cheap tactic to stretch the game out, and it baffles me why you just can’t have another bash at the course you just failed. However, if that doesn’t bother you, then Cool Boarders 2 will likely have more than enough to keep you frozen in place with icicles protruding from your joy pad.
Adam: Whilst the game is fun, I’m not sure how much longevity one could really get out of it. There is a competition mode where you can race against the AI to unlock additional courses and characters. The courses are quite difficult, and you could certainly put away a few hours trying to unlock everything available. Aside from that, I think the multiplayer aspect of the game is really where you can get your money’s worth as playing with your friends on the classic local split-screen multiplayer races is a fun way to spend an evening or two.
Would We Recommend It?
Adam: Cool Boarders 2 isn’t the greatest snowboarding game to ever exist, but it is fun for what it is. It’s certainly worth the few quid that the game usually sells for these days. Overall, it’s a simple game in principle but difficult to master. I’m not sure if I would have included this game with the PS Classic as I believe there are other games from this era that deserve the spot more, but maybe that’s something to talk about another day…
But if you still have a PlayStation console, and you’re sitting on the fence about picking a copy of the game up, I’d say go ahead; for the price you’ll get a few hours of entertainment out of it, and it would be a nice addition to any gamer’s collection.
Mike: Cool Boarders 2 costs so little that I’d honestly struggle not to recommend it, if only to have it as part of your overall collection. You can get it fully boxed complete with the manual for under £5 if you’re willing to shop around a bit, which is nothing to be sniffed at, and it will give you your money’s worth overall. If you’re thinking of getting a PS Classic, then Cool Boarders 2 will already be included on that, of course, and after playing it again, I can kind of understand why it made the cut when all was said and done.
There are better extreme sports games that could have been included, but there’s no doubt that Cool Boarders 2 does definitely tickle a particular nostalgic itch for me, and I’m pretty certain it would for others too. There’s just something about it that really personifies the first couple of years of Sony’s grey slab, and I get why it was chosen, even though I’d stop short of calling it a good game overall. With some tweaks to the tricks system and some graphical touch ups, it could have been a genuinely good game, but as it is, Cool Boarders 2 has to settle for being a flawed one with some good elements.