Platform: XBox 360
Here’s a little exercise. Imagine you’re Indie Built, the developers of Amped. Over two Xbox titles, you have carved your fledgling franchise a niche as the snowboarder’s snowboarding game; the game that comes closest to the real feel of board on powder. Sales are good, but you’re up against EA’s SSX, with its casual gamer friendly mix of spectacular high-speed racing and easy-going, trick-happy action. So, for your virgin outing on the spanking new Xbox 360, you decide to turn things around. Will you a) maintain your existing course with a game designed to exploit the power of the console, b) create a more populist hybrid of the Amped and SSX styles or c) go down a bizarre new route that seems hell-bent on alienating both your existing fan base and the SSX camp?
Guess which option Indie Built went for.
Still, I’m kind of glad that they did. Confession time: I’ve never been a fan of Amped. I could appreciate why real snowboarders liked the titles – these were games made with a real knowledge of the sport and the culture that surrounded it – but I always found them a touch too demanding. While you could pick up SSX3 and just have fun, you couldn’t really enjoy Amped until you’d worked your way around the subtleties of its controls and spent a lot of time going nowhere, often on your bum.
This has now changed. New-style Amped is nice and friendly, with easy to pull off tricks that can be chained together into combos without the ‘catch the mosquito in the chopsticks’ timing of a Zen master. You spend more of your first hour managing impressive mid-air combos and less time tumbling around in the snow, which I’m sure is a good thing. Better still, Amped 3 has managed this without losing its feel. Like Gran Turismo or Waverace 64, it still pulls off that impossible trick of making the movement of a thumb on an analogue stick feel like something completely and utterly different: in this case, the synchronised movement of body and board on ice and powder. It’s just that this time around it’s more fun.