Review: Buried under a pile of snow or bound for greatness, it all depends on your attitude towards downhill racing.
1080°: Avalanche isn't the first Nintendo 64 racer to seek sequel relief on the GameCube. In fact, it's the third one in a little less than four months. While there's little else this snowboarding sequel has in common with a futuristic racer and a kart racer, opinions often suggest that both F-Zero GX and Mario Kart: Double Dash!! have seen limited progress over their N64 predecessors, a setback 1080°: Avalanche shares. In terms of its trick system, the game also fails to outmaneuver EA's SSX 3 as it quickly sinks in the snow by comparison. But, for those that thoroughly enjoyed 1080° Snowboarding or are primarily looking for a downhill racer, Avalanche offers enough speed to at least seem satisfying.
Avalanche not only plays a lot like 1080° Snowboarding, but it's also setup the very same way. The game is again split among modes of match race, time trial, gate challenge and trick attack and even a couple of characters like Rickey Winterborn and Rob Haywood take to the slopes for a second time. Match race is where much of the action is with head-to-head battles to the bottom of a series of progressively harder slopes. There's a total of fifteen match races throughout the four initial downhill difficulties as well as a set of mirrored tracks as parts of the extreme challenge. Despite that name though, none of them are extremely difficult. The AI sometimes sneaks ahead or falls behind to keep races interesting, but your real interest will more than likely lie in the game's well-crafted level design and sheer sense of speed.
Although these courses aren't much longer than the ones in 1080° Snowboarding, it's the obstacles, the structures and the branching pathways that cause you to want to make a second or third run voluntarily. There's plenty of ice sheets to break through, tunnels to fall into, ramps to ride, logs to hop and yes, rails to grind. It's a lot like the Tony Hawk balancing mechanic, only it is not as polished and is lacking originality. However, something added to Avalanche that is polished and is unique is a regaining balance mechanic. When hitting an object or landing badly, an on-screen meter appears to signify that the boarder is currently off-balance and the screen begins to blur. Rotating the control stick in the indicated clockwise or counterclockwise direction usually corrects this problem and keeps things moving normally. There's definitely enough in the way of obstacles, namely skiers, snowmobiles and running wildlife, so in addition to being a very original effect, it sure beats having to bail each time you hit a small snag.
During the final match of each race difficulty, competition with a rival boarder is set aside and an avalanche occurs after you fall from a helicopter onto the mountaintop. This sudden rush of snow is something that snowboarding fans will want to see and if you're like me, something you'll experience several times over as it's difficult to avoid wiping out. While avalanches aren't the best gimmick for a game to rely on, it at least offers something that's unique to the match set as well as unique to this sequel and the snowboarding subgenre.