Namco has always made some of the best and freshest games out there. With the release of this new extreme title airblade offers the chance to pull off extreme tricks and gives the player a chance to experience the joy of hover boarding (just like in the movie Back to the Future III). Granted I may not look like Michael J. Fox or have his money, however, he had the help of special effects. All I have is my joystick and gaming skills. I have always wanted a real hover board since I saw that movie and I thought surely I would see one soon enough. But until they actually invent one or release it from those evil government science geeks, I guess I will have to just enjoy this game. The game offers something new and that is great, but it could have been touched up a bit before they released the game.

This title offers a lot and has plenty of modes including a story mode, training and multi-player mode. I would like to say the story mode is a good one filled with action and mystery. The graphics are good but sort of dark and in need of a touch of brightness added to them. This would have increased my scores. The controls are good, but they do take some time to learn and could have been a little tighter. You do get instructions and help in the story mode from another character in the game, but the instructions at times are said so fast it's hard to catch it all. I will say once you learn the right combos you can sure pull off some very sweet moves. The story mode is good, however, until you get the controls down pat, it can be frustrating especially if you watch the special making of airblade DVD featurette included on the game disc. This game takes time to learn. I love the idea, but I want to play, not take a course in airblade 101. Although it takes some time to learn, the game can be a blast to play. You will want to go through the training mode a few times.

I will say the more I play this game the more I am enjoying it. The best advice I can offer is to rent it first and be open-minded. I still think this game could have been better and might have been a bit rushed to get it out on the shelves.

After hearing somewhat negative remarks cast towards Airblade, I was surprised to the find the game infinitely more playable and fun than most were giving it credit for. Criterion, who gave us the flawed TrickStyle on the DC is getting very close to perfection with the whole Hoverboard genre. I personally enjoyed the Story Mode objectives being given at one time (although that doesn't mean they have to be beaten in order). I mean, it's a Story and follows the progression of relating events. If every objective was given at once, then there wouldn't be dramatic tension, right? Okay, so Dramatic Tension was going (h)overboard, but you get my drift.

Once I got used to the control which was very quick due to the THPS control scheme, I started having fun, and I have to tell you that although I was a little frustrated at times, I never stopped enjoying the game. I only wish there were a few more levels, because once I got started I honestly didn't want it to stop. Once you start zipping around the wild and amazing looking levels, I defy anyone to not have fun.

On a personal note, every student who played this game in my home was more than just suitably impressed with it. Remarks such as "This game is amazing" and "This is SO cool" were in abundance. The only reason I mention this, is that as reviewers we tend to start looking for the flaws right away and I think it's clear that most in the industry adopt a "You better impress me right away because I've seen it all" attitude. Sometimes it's nice to sit back and see what the real target audience has to say about the game.

The presentation of Airblade is really slick and smacks of spit and polish. Everything from the level design, graphic eye candy, animation and original soundtrack is finely crafted.

The game's only real downer is the loss of framerate in the 2 player mode. I didn't really enjoy it that much.

It's definitely the best Hoverboard game ever made and their next one should be perfect. Rent first to see if it's your thing, but this one is staying in my collection.

Imagine Tony Hawk without wheels. Imagine floating on a cushion of air where terrain is not important. Imagine catching big air while stationary. Imagine a better game than this and you will have the world by the tail.

I'm being especially hard on Airblade because this game is so close to being great that there is no excuse for it not to be. You can't afford to be second best when your competition is the Hawk and those other "board" games. The concept of a hoverboard is a great idea and it does show some moments of exhilaration but sadly these moments are fleeting.

I think the problem with the game is the focus of the gameplay. The story mode is the main mode that packs too many irritating and frustrating goals that stifle the life right out of the game. The challenges are difficult and never properly explained. Most of the goals comprise an arbitrary set of moves that you have to discover through trial and error. Miss one of the right moves, or time out, and you have to go through all of it again.

The freestyle mode is where things come together. More points should be awarded in this mode because it's the most fun. The airblade controls very well and balance is not an issue. You hover around hitting lines, swinging on pole-like objects, spinning, twisting and grinding over a variety of surfaces. Tricks, stunts and combos fairly easy to pull off as they mimic the same control setup from Tony Hawk. It does get pretty boring after a while and you will be begging for a new environment, which you will have to unlock in Story Mode.

The graphics are nothing to sneeze at, with good real-time lighting effects and shiny, reflective surfaces. The level of detail is impressive especially at night where the streetlights illuminate an area consistent with their radiance pattern in real life.

Plan to spend a lot of time practicing before you tackle the story mode or just rent the game and play in the freestyle mode for a weekend. That will be about all you can stand before you simply have to find some different surroundings; and those different surroundings can be found in Tony Hawk.

RATING 4.5/5


System: PS2
Dev: Criterion
Pub: Namco
Released: Jan 2002
Players: 1 - 2