It took me a while to find a game that I became obsessed with in the PlayStation 1 days. My first PS1 experience was with Porsche Challenge, Crash Bandicoot and International Superstar Soccer 1997 which are all super solid video games so it comes as a surprise to know that ESPN Extreme Games was my guilty pleasure game. ESPN Extreme games on the Playstation 1 (later renamed to 1Xtreme when the ESPN license expired) is not well received by all gamers. In fact a lot of gamers claim that they had never heard of ESPN Extreme Games. If you are one of those people then I urge you to ignore that bad reviews online. Instead give this blog a read then go and find a copy here. ESPN Extreme Games was a launch titles in North America and later came to PAL regions in December 1995 (then hitting Japan in May 1996). It is a racing game with a difference. In the 90’s the racing genre was dominated by traditional and arcade style racers like Ridge Racer, Gran Turismo, Wipeout and the various iterations of Kart Racers. ESPN Extreme Games boasts a very different set of vehicles namely Skateboards, Street Luges, Inline Skates and Mountain Bikes.
Gameplay with class
That’s right: with class. ESPN Extreme Games is in a league of its own as it breaks the traditional vibes of the racing genre. It almost has a Road Rash sense to it in that part of the gameplay mechanics are about knocking your opponent to the ground. Once you’ve chosen your mode of transportation it is then up to you to race to the finish line by any means possible. Along the way there different coloured gates that reward you with different goodies. Great gates add cash to your pocket, yellow gates add some well deserved season points and purple gates open and close different short cuts. Alongside the gates the roads and paths a littered with perilous obstacles such as chickens, boulders, cars and more. Let us not forget the ridiculous ramps too. What would a game called ESPN Extreme Games be without ramps right? One of the difficulties of ESPN Extreme Games is that you have very little time to respond to the obstacles. They literally appear out of nowhere. Unless you know the tracks really well you will probably do very badly. Despite this ESPN Extreme Games is a ton of fun.
ESPN Extreme Games lacks tracks but really picks up the pace with the eccentric gameplay. When racing in story mode you view some classic pep-talk lines from Suzy Kolber, a U.S Sports anchor. I remember thinking that this was a nice touch especially as it is actual recorded video rather than it being a CGI model. By todays standards it seems pretty basic but Suzy Kolbe’s presence in the game delays the ageing of ESPN Extreme Games slightly. ESPN Extreme Games really did dare to be different and it paid off.
You will not be playing ESPN Extreme Games to experience high end graphics by 32bit standards. The game can often seem blocky and textures lack significantly. Objects such as trees remain completely still and adopt a 2D form. The game almost seems rushed if you judge it solely from the graphical flaws. On a slightly more positive tone this is not as always as noticeable to the naked eye as the gameplay is incredibly fast.
2 Player Couch co-op
Who else misses 2 player couch co-op? Today’s gaming is all about playing online alongside thousands of players that you never met. It feels disjointed. “Bring back couch co-op” I say! ESPN Extreme Games does 2 player couch co-op ally well. With a top to bottom split screen setup it is super fun to play against a friend and as this game is so frantically paced it is difficult to dislike it. I highly recommend you play this with a friend over anything.
To Skate or not to Skate
ESPN Extreme Games is clear cut when it comes to its transport. Players get to choose between a skateboard, inline skates, street luge and mountain bikes. Earning cash in races allows you to upgrade your ride as you choose. As one would expect from a racing game each mode of transport has its own advantages and disadvantages. Straight from the get-go I would avoid the street luge as this is for the more seasoned players. Whilst the speed is extreme the agility lacks so when trying to navigate tight gaps and sharp corners you might experience more crashes than you can handle. To start off with I would recommend the mountain bike it is easy to handle and can get up to decent speeds.
The Finish Line...
ESPN Extreme Games on the PS1 is a fine racer. It is not the best looking game from the 32bit era but the gameplay feels really solid. It may take you a lot of practice to nail down but once you’ve found a rhythm you’ll be hooked. ESPN Extreme Games did well to line up against Ridge Racer and whilst it didn't break any records its an absolute must of you are looking to try something a little different.
- Gemma @Juicy Game Reviews / TheGebs24
Retro Game Reviews. Mega Drive, Super Nintendo, Sega Dreamcast and more
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