Review by Wonderboy

Reviewed: 02/26/07 | Updated: 05/11/18

What's Cool about Cool Boarders?

Man, here's a game that seems to get trashed by everyone who plays it. People criticize it for not having enough options or variety, or they say it plays like Paperboy on crack, or that you have to play each course to the point of memorization if you want to get to the end. Not true, not true, not true. More options would be nice, I suppose, but what's there is fine and while I see the Paperboy comparison, I always liked Paperboy. I think Cool Boarders is a good game, apparently I'm the only one.

I guess the difference is that I'm not in love with the super-deep and complex games that are so popular today. I grew up on Pac-man, Megamania and Tetris and those are the games I still love. Games you can pick up and play in an instant, no character stats or battle systems or move lists to memorize, just turn 'em on and let your higher brain functions wither away. That's what Cool Boarders Pocket is all about.

Your goal is to slide down the side of a mountain -- viewed from a diagonal 3/4 perspective (think Zaxxon or Viewpoint except backwards) -- as fast as you can avoiding whatever obstacles the programmers chose to throw in your path, from boulders and pine trees to gusting wind, cliff walls and ice-holes to lava flows or baby harp seals. You can only be described as Zen-like as you pick your character (male or female, so no worries about gender confusion in your purified, child-like mind) and actually *BECOME* him or her, speeding down the mountain-side, dodging, weaving, anticipating -- flying off a cliff, flailing into a tree, or being mauled by a polar bear. It's Zen, I tell you.

The control is simple. Press 'A' to jump, 'B' to drift when you need to turn sharply, or 'Down' to gain speed. You can also get off an extra long spin jump to carry you over certain ravines and obstacles by holding 'A' a little before letting go, then spinning the joystick while you're in the air. Also, building speed by holding 'Down' on the joystick refills your energy-bar (which is depleted by careening into the obstacles or off cliffs), so there's always the question, "should I speed up and regain my energy or take it slow so as not to hit any more of those darn Harp seals?"

As for the courses, you get a total of 81 in the normal (Freeride) mode; there sounds like a lot, but really what you get is four stages with 20 courses each, plus one bonus course. Let me explain, each course is made up of various "pieces" laid out in a certain order. All of the courses in one stage are made up of the same pieces just arranged in a different order (and you get a whole new set of chunks when you graduate to the next stage). It's a unique way of getting a lot out of the small memory available on a Neo Poke cartridge and I think it works very well, you never notice any seams and each new course feels fresh enough.

When you begin playing, only courses from stages A and B are playable, but you're awarded points for getting best-times on those courses which allow you to open up the higher stages and unlock an extra course and --eventually -- a secret character (the male and female characters play exactly the same, but the secret character -- Snow Girl --is quite different). Once you've done all that, though, the replay value would drop pretty quickly if it weren't for the Survival Mode.

In the Survival Mode you play one long (infinite, actually) course that's randomly generated from all the course pieces in the normal mode. Your goal is simply to see how long or how far you can go without running out of energy. And since the course is randomly generated each time you play, you won't get sick of seeing the same part of the course over and over.

Graphics: 5
Nice and colorful and cartooned with good texture, but not very polished and occasionally downright glitch-looking.

Sound: 5
Eh. Basic beeps and scratches for the sound effects and monotonous BGMs. Plus, there's only one song per stage, so you have listen to the same song for 20 courses -- or, turn it off.

Replay: 7
Once you've gotten best-times on all the courses you probably won't really want to go back and try to beat your own times, but thank goodness for the Survival Mode. It's also fun trying to beat someone else's best-times, too bad there's no name or initial entry.

Overall: 6
I feel a little odd recommending a game that so many people seem to dislike, but I've gotta be me. For good old fashioned reflex gameplay it's good, plus there's nothing else like it in the Neo Poke library. The closest we've got to a racing game.

Rating:   2.0 - Poor

Product Release: Cool Boarders Pocket (JP, 02/24/00)

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