Amped: Freestyle Snowboarding (2001) by Microsoft Game Studios

Microsoft’s first party lineup has been a little bit lacking in the last few months while we patiently wait for some new announcements from this years Electronic Entertainment Expo.  However, back in the early 2000’s they were trying to differentiate themselves from the competition by releasing a full slate of first party exclusives, giving consumers a reason to pick up an Xbox.  These early Microsoft games had a ton of character and they were really weird.  Just think of some of the first party exclusives, which included a time traveling cat with a vacuum cleaner.  Microsoft also decided that the Xbox would be the perfect place for unique sports franchises and created their own brand of yearly sports games.  Among one of the offerings was Amped: Freestyle Snowboarding, a hidden gem that was actually a lot of fun.

You already know that I loved the Tony Hawk skateboarding series, so I thought that some snowboarding could be a great experience too.  You could say that I was pretty amped for this snowboarding game! Ahhhh yeah.

Now a lot of people will tell you that Amped: Freestyle Snowboarding was not a great game or that the game was merely mediocre.  And yeah I tend to agree, but it was a new kind of snowboarding game.  If we look at some of the other snowboarding games of the time, the SSX and 1080 games, they tend to focus on the racing aspect of getting down the mountain first.  There were cool secrets and optional areas along the tracks, but the games were a racing game first and a snowboarding game second.  Amped was a true snowboarding game.  There wasn’t a rush to get down the mountain, you were free to explore and enjoy the mountain.

The first few times that I hopped into the game I went straight down the mountain as fast as I could.  There were half pipes and rails and jumps galore, but I had been trained to go fast!  After feelings pretty underwhelmed by the experience I tried to finish some of the missions.  There were high score challenges, trick challenges, and photography challenges.  You could do any or all of them during the run.  There wasn’t much in the way of collectibles, it would have been pretty cool to include some S-N-O-W letters to collect along the way.

The big draw for the game was the persistent character development.  As you accomplished goals and challenges you gained fans, which allowed you to progress further in the game and unlock new clothes, boards, and mountains.  This is when the game truly shined, the loading screens were full of weird anecdotes.  You character would win things like free hot dogs and get other useless items as rewards, but showed your slow rise to snowboarding fame.  The later games in the series cranked the weirdness up to 11, but the first game just showed some small hints of flavor.  It was unique and let you just explore the mountain.

Years later I would take up snowboarding as a hobby and carry that same mindset on the mountain.  Enjoy the ride.  But damn if getting off the chair lift isn’t the hardest thing ever!

Tomorrow we finally talk about Whacked!  what?!

Jake “prettyboyplaid” Fredericks

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