Monday, March 28, 2011

A Second Look @ Grind Session (PS1)

(Images taken from Moby Games and IGN)

When a game refuses to follow the button presses of the player and instead decides what's best for it, it makes for a really terrible game. Playing a game should be fun, not tedious. Its hard NOT to compare this game to the Pro Skater series but it is easy to pick it apart piece by piece and quickly discover what went wrong. I remember being impressed by the demo for this game on a Playstation Underground demo disc years ago. Today, after just one hour of play time, I realize that this game has shattered my good thoughts of it. The game can't even be edgy when it comes to skateboarding, a sport known for having some hardcore people. Amidst the skating craze of the early 00's it should have been easy to tap into the culture.

Grind Session follows its own rules and ends up alienating the player multiple times through inaccurate or incomplete button presses, terrible physics and gravity, broken skating lines, mediocre tricks and skaters, and a meager amount of time to do things in. Remember breaking the objects in the first Pro Skater? Well that happens in pretty much every level here. There's little to no imagination to the entire game.
By advancing through, your chosen professional or created skater earns respect. Although how the words "Grind Session" and "respect" can be said in the same sentence is beyond me. The game physics, possibly 50% of the time, won't allow you to complete a line because you'll fall off a rail or not jump high enough.
Tricks are unlocked by earning enough respect to complete a level. They range from simple combinations to double d-pad presses for the more complicated ones. Something similar to the special tricks in the Pro Skater series. When enough tricks are successfully landed, your skater goes into “Possession” mode, which allows them to spin faster. Grind Session's spinning is done only by left and right on the d-pad, which means you need to press carefully if you're wanting to spin a trick after pressing up or down on the d-pad. Its just convoluted.
You won't be able to count how many times a trick WILL NOT go through. Apparently the game has a hard time processing what should be two flips or grabs in a row. As for the grinding, the best way to describe it would be "broken." Holding down the grind button makes you stay on the rail while releasing it to set up for the next trick causes your skater to jump off. A few times you'll hit a line perfectly, only to come off and bail while landing even with your wheels pointed forward. Why? I don't know.

There's one thing the game almost does right: creating a female skater, something not seen in Pro Skater 2 until 2x. Unfortunately, the create-a-skater options are limited to two variations of a male and female model. Each one looking like someone you'd find pushing mongo around a California boardwalk. One thing that begs to be mentioned is that there are more hidden/unlockable skaters than there are professionals. Personally, aside from Daewon Song, I've never heard of any of the other pros, or have heard anything about them since this game.

The graphics are terrible in the fact that it could have been done better. We've SEEN it done better in the first Pro Skater, and this game came out after Pro Skater 2!
Skating around should be fun, right? Nope, not here. Most of the levels are huddled together and there's very little room to do extravagant things in, much less room to get a good line going. The level designs are terrible and bland. Nothing interesting to see.
More than a few times will the camera screw with you whether on a jump or in general since there's no free-looking. You have to stop the skater either with the circle button (what's wrong with pressing down?) or L2. Holding down L2 to look around in 'Skater's Eye' mode wastes precious time.

The sound is bland: a grunt from the skater, a metallic sound while grinding, a cash registering 'dinging,' it does little to draw you in. There are very few environmental sounds and the cardboard cutout crowd cheering during competitions gives you a feeling of "no one really cares."
The music is varied, at least, and is ALMOST the saving grace for the whole game. Artists like Jurassic 5, Black Flag, and a few others give it a nice diversity, but it repeats so often you get sick of it in the first hour.

Its a game that's meant to be taken or leaven as is. I, for one, would rather leave it, in a trash pile. Oddly enough the developer, Shaba Games, went on to develop Pro Skater 3 for the PS1 which wasn't a bad game at all. Grind Session was up against a giant of a game in the arcade skating genre, and when measured beside it its simple manual trick just couldn't compare to the Hawk's 900.

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