Monday 21 September 2020

Cool Boarders Pocket (Neo Geo Pocket Color review)

Developer: UEP Systems
Publisher: SNK Playmore
Released: 2000

Cool Boarders Pocket is a snowboarding game and the first portable entry for the franchise.

In Freestyle mode, the objective is to beat the record time in 81 stages while avoiding crashing into various hazards such as animals and trees, or falling into cliff gaps. Holding down on the joystick allows you to squat in order to gain speed, the A button forces you to drift for a hard turn and the B button makes your rider jump. The controls are a mixed bag; on one hand, turning is a breeze thanks to smooth rider movements and the awesome drift ability where you can quickly switch directions to avoid upcoming danger. However, the jump button is occasionally unresponsive and the inability to leap while your rider is facing diagonally does cause some issues. Once you become accustomed to the limitations, you can learn advanced moves such as charging up a leap and then circling the analog stick in mid-flight for some serious air; this helps you cross huge gaps and leads to plenty of shortcuts that add a great risk-reward element. Each stage is very short (usually around 90 seconds) to ease frustration and foster up feelings of: "Just one more go." What also helps is that the time limit is generous throughout, so even if you crash a few times in a stage you still have a chance to beat the record time if you take a few risks. Survival mode tasks you with riding the longest possible distance without depleting your life gauge by crashing. It's a nice change of pace, as you're forced to take a slower, more methodical approach rather than going for speed. It also has plenty of replayability thanks to the fantastic idea to implement randomly generated course layouts, and your furthest distance is auto-saved to the cartridge.

Cool Boarders Pocket doesn't have a lot of tricks up its sleeve (and can feel more like an obstacle course rather than extreme sports), but its bite-sized approach and healthy stage numbers result in some fun racing action. The Survival mode switches things up in creative ways too and overall it's a title that slowly grows on you the more you play. 

Random trivia: The game was only released in Europe and Japan.

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